The Income Tax Fraud Trial of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon

U.S. v. Moon, 718 F.2d 1210 (2d Cir. 1983)

During the 1970s, cults were often the subjects of mass media attention. The Manson Family ushered in the decade by murdering innocents in the name of Charlie/God and the Beatles, and Jim Jones closed it out with the largest mass suicide of Americans in the country’s history.

Between these events, the Unification Church gained attention for its sweeping and successful efforts in recruiting young people. The Church’s leader was Sun Myung Moon, a 56-year-old of North Korean descent with wide-ranging business and political interests.

Parents of Unification members sought the right to “deprogram” their children in 1977, with both legal and media representatives attempting to define the line between brainwashing and practicing the religion of one’s choice. Lawsuits against Moon’s church resulted in a relatively equal share of victories and defeats, so in 1982, the American government took a hard look at his finances. He was convicted of income tax fraud that May in a trial widely regarded as having its roots in questions of religion rather than those of justice. He served 13 months of an 18-month sentence.