WASHINGTON- The Washington Times, the conservative competitor to The Washington Post, is in upheaval after three top executives were fired and its top editor announced his resignation last week.
The dismissals, while reportedly financially driven, have drawn attention to the Times' owners, the Moons, who are also founders and messianic leaders of the Unification Church, a universalist religion that originated in Korea. The newspaper receives subsidies through its parent company, News World Communications, an arm of the church that also owns the wire service United Press International.
On Tuesday, former editorial page editor Richard Miniter filed a suit with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging, among other things, "the Times discriminated against me on the basis of religion (non-Unificationist)."
He said in the suit that Times president Tom McDevitt-a member in the Unification Church and among the top executives to be dismissed-had "coerced" him to go to a church event. Later he said he joked about the church with a coworker over the summer, leading to a background check. Then he said the Times told him to work from home, and in September he quit receiving paychecks. He was fired in October.
Acting Times president and publisher Jonathan Slevin denied Miniter's accusations.
The Rev. Sun Myung Moon, 89, founded the Unification Church in 1954 and considers himself to be a messiah come to finish Jesus' work. He and his third wife, Hak Ja Han, are described as the "True Parents" among the church's roughly 100,000 adherents. The church emphasizes the importance of marriage between one man and one woman and is willing to chime in on political issues like the Iraq War. Moon believes the kingdom of God can be established on earth and has sought to exert political and cultural influence through institutions like The Washington Times. The newspaper, which was established in 1982, is headed up by Moon's son Preston, who, it seems, has had conflict with his father because of the Rev. Moon's selection of a younger son, Hyung Jin Moon, to succeed him as leader of the church.
"[W]hat took place at The Washington Times is contrary to the advice and guidance from our True Father," wrote the Rev. In Jin Moon, the Rev. Moon's daughter, in a church memo obtained by Talking Points Memo. "True Parents are heartbroken and dismayed over what has happened, especially in light of the fact that they have been guiding our movement worldwide, over the last several months, specifically to remain united with their spiritual leadership."
Some on the newspaper staff have been members of the church, but former reporters at the paper said the church did not influence their journalistic work, and the Moons rarely made appearances in the newsroom. For instance, Times reporters have covered the church and the Moons in several articles in the past year.
The Rev. Moon, according to one of the church's affiliated websites, is involved in other business ventures, like The New Yorker Hotel, publications in Korea and the Middle East, and a number of schools.