Every Aspect of Life Finds Its Way to the Probate and Family Court


(Drawn from Memory)


           News of Sun Myung Moon’s death last month at the age of 92 brought back a flood of memories.  He was the founder and leader of the Unification Church, a self-proclaimed Messiah, who turned his church into a multi-billion dollar empire.


           In the early 1970s, Rev. Moon established several base points in the United States including Boston where he purchased a mansion on Beacon Street across from the Boston Common.  His young converts participated in intense evangelization and fundraising activities selling flowers, candy etc.  There were widespread stories of parents kidnapping their own children to rescue and “deprogram” them from what the parents’ considered to be Rev. Moon’s brainwashing.


           Back when I was still in college, I would occasionally take the Red Line from Shawmut Station in Dorchester to Park St. Station on the Common.  It was fascinating place to walk around.  As soon as you exited the Park St. Station, you would see and hear all sorts of people: the Hare Krishna circling and chanting in their colorful saffron robes, their men with shaved heads except for a small ponytail in the back; sometimes, there would be a clown or a mime in the same area, and of course the “Moonies” as they were commonly called.


            If you stayed on the Boston Common for any length of time, you were bound to be approached by a “Moonie”.  One day, I accepted an offer to have a chat inside the mansion. I really wanted to see what it was like inside and I did not fear being brainwashed.  I was escorted to a room to the right of the foyer where I sat down at a table and was served a cold drink of water or lemonade or something like that.  I talked with about five college age people for about thirty minutes and then left.  When I left, the person who had invited me into the mansion walked beside me up Beacon St. forcefully imploring me to stay and telling me that Satan was talking me into leaving.  He finally gave up after about 50 yards of walking and talking.


            After graduation, I took a position as a Probation Officer/Family Service Officer in the Probate and Family Court.  One of my functions was to conduct investigations of family situations and file written reports concerning children.  Sometime during my second year in the position, I was assigned to do a “visitation”, or, as it is referred to now, a “parenting time” investigation.  In this case, the custodial parent wanted to stop the non-custodial parent’s alternate weekend parenting time because their child was spending the weekend with the non-custodial parent at a new address, namely, the Unification Church mansion on Beacon St. 


           The investigation brought me back to the mansion to inspect the sleeping arrangements.  The young children all slept in sleeping bags set out on the floor in one very large room.  There would be many times over the balance of my career when I would hear one parent complain that the other parent has the children sleep in sleeping bags on the floor.  I never had a problem with this per se as it seemed to me that a parent could make an adventure out of it and the children would enjoy it. 


           Generally speaking, in matters of religion and custody disputes, each parent has the right to raise a child according to his or her own faith.  In some situations, it may be necessary to curtail this parental right if one parent is using religion to subvert the other parent’s authority or otherwise damage the other parent’s relationship with the child.  This was the conclusion reached in this case and the court put restrictions on the non-custodial parent’s parenting time to ensure that the custodial parent was not continuously portrayed in an extremely negative manner.


           At the time of the court decision, the non-custodial parent was scheduled for assignment overseas and for marriage along with thousands of other couples in a mass wedding ceremony performed by Rev. Moon.  This rendered the court decision moot for at least the two year period of the overseas assignment. 


            Sometimes I wonder how things turned out.  Did the non-custodial parent remain in the Unification Church?  Did the marriage to a spouse chosen by Rev. Moon work out?  What does the child, now an adult, think about of all this? 


           At the time you do an investigation, you complete it and move on.  There is no time to check back or reflect on how things went; there is only the next case, the next family, the next child, demanding and deserving your full attention.       



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