Sen. John W. Warner's office acknowledged yesterday that the Virginia Republican arranged for religious activists to use a Senate office building last March for a ceremony in which the Rev. Sun Myung Moon declared himself the Messiah and said his teachings have helped Hitler and Stalin be "reborn as new persons."
The senator did not attend the coronation-like ceremony or realize it would involve Moon, a controversial figure who spent 18 months in prison in the 1980s for tax fraud, said Warner spokesman John Ullyot. "Our office felt misled" after news accounts described a long ceremony in which Moon and his wife were crowned as leaders of international peace, he said.
Many private groups use Senate office buildings for receptions and meetings, but they must obtain a senator's approval. The Senate Rules and Administration Committee has declined to reveal who approved the use of the Dirksen Senate Office Building for the March 23 ceremony, and a key organizer said last month the question was "shrouded in mystery." Warner's office acknowledged its role yesterday when asked for details by The Washington Post.
When news accounts last month described the ceremony, several of the approximately dozen lawmakers who attended said they were duped into going and had no idea the Moons would be the chief honorees. Some said they simply went to see a constituent receive an award and were unaware of Moon's long speech in which he said, "Emperors, kings and presidents . . . have declared to all Heaven and Earth that Reverend Sun Myung Moon is none other than humanity's Savior, Messiah, Returning Lord and True Parent."
In a March 11 letter, Christian Voice of Alexandria asked Warner to reserve room G-11 in Dirksen "for a reception Christian Voice plans to host in honor of the 'Ambassadors for Peace' award recipients." The letter, which the senator's office provided to The Post yesterday, was addressed "Dear John" and signed by group president Gary L. Jarmin.
"Nothing in the letter suggests any participation by Rev. Moon or his organization," Ullyot said. "Senator Warner's staff approved the event, since Mr. Jarmin is a constituent known to the Virginia delegation." Jarmin first made the request by phone, Ullyot said, and was asked to put it in writing.
A March 8 invitation sent to many lawmakers and others said the "primary program sponsor" would be the "Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace (IIFWP), founded by Rev. Dr. and Mrs. Sun Myung Moon." Several co-sponsors were listed, including the Washington Times Foundation, but Christian Voice was not mentioned.
The group, however, has been linked to Moon's far-flung religious and business empire in numerous articles over the years. An April article in Church & State magazine referred to "Christian Voice, a Religious Right group connected with the Rev. Sun Myung Moon." It said the group was "long associated with Moon operative Gary Jarmin."
A 1990 Los Angeles Times article said the Rev. Robert Grant -- listed on Jarmin's letter to Warner as chairman of Christian Voice -- founded the American Freedom Coalition, a group "dedicated to repairing Moon's tattered persona in the United States."
A 1989 Post article about Moon's empire also made several references to Jarmin and Grant. Grant responded to The Post with an op-ed column saying, in part, "the AFC has received support from business interests of the Unification Church," founded by Moon. "Since its founding in April 1987, the AFC has in fact received $ 5,252,473 from such business interests. This amounts to just 32.7 percent . . . of our total gross revenues."
In a phone interview yesterday, Jarmin said he requested the Dirksen room on behalf of Christian Voice because the ceremony involved hundreds of people and required an overflow room. A previous Dirksen room request, he said, "was done under the Washington Times Foundation." Senate rules limit any organization to one room per event.
Jarmin would not specify which senator approved the foundation's request, but suggested it was Warner. "The same senator can request two rooms," he said. "I had to use a different organization to get" the overflow room.
Ullyot said the March 11 letter from Christian Voice was "the only request we received" for permission to use a room for the March 23 ceremony. He said he did not know which senator approved the second room.
"From what was reported" about the ceremony, Ullyot said, "this was not an appropriate use of Senate space." He said he did not know whether anyone from Warner's office had complained to Jarmin.
Researchers Lucy Shackelford and Madonna Lebling contributed to this report.