The Words of the Roomet Family
Victoria Roomet graduated from Brandeis University in 2009 majoring in psychology. She is currently CARP Vice President. She is from Queens, NY.
It is unjust to have to endure discrimination and persecution based on your religious beliefs. The sad reality is: the world is not perfect. There are many reasons why people are uncomfortable with religions that are new or different. Some are based on dogma, some have to do with fear of something foreign or unknown, and some people just lack the desire to understand. It is our responsibility as Unificationists to embrace people, and to show them the amazing ideals and true love that is at the heart of the Unification Church. Part of people's mistrust has come from our own unwillingness to be open about our association with the church, based on fear of persecution. An integral part of breaking these false stereotypes is showing ourselves in public as confident and proud Unificationists. This negative public image has been perpetuated by organizations, such as the Cult Awareness Network which gained momentum in America in the 1980s.
At the start of the 21st century in a country that boasts to the world of its freedoms, it is important to recognize that freedom to worship can only occur when people proudly and bravely although not arrogantly, proclaim their faith. CARP, as the student branch of the Unification Church, plays an important role in challenging and changing perceptions on college campuses.
I personally had the experience of trying to start a CARP chapter on my campus, Brandeis University in the spring of 2009, and was met with opposition and persecution from fellow students. Emilie Schuler (a fellow Unificationist student) and I brought our CARP club constitution before the student government to request club recognition. Recognition of a religious club, for example, gives students the right to use school resources to support their own spiritual growth as students of faith. It is a commonly granted privilege to any religious group that asks. Emilie and I wanted to create a CARP chapter so that we could have the space on campus to freely practice our faith, as Unificationists. However, upon entering this meeting with the representatives of our student body, we were ridiculed and forced to endure the public denunciation of our faith and religious leader, even though those details had nothing to do with whether or not we should be recognized as a legitimate club. Fortunately, after 2 hours of deliberation (club recognition meetings usually take about 10 minutes, often less) CARP was recognized as a legitimate club, much to the disdain of three student government representatives who were the force behind this persecution in one of the most liberal schools in America.
This experience helped me understand how important it is for us, as Unificationists, to clear up some of the misconceptions that are out there. It is not always easy or comfortable to put yourself out there and be willing to face persecution, but as our National Pastor Rev. In Jin Moon says, if we don't, who will? Emilie and I did not want to stand by and let someone else tell us that the incredible truths we are trying to align our lives with are 'wrong' or 'dangerous,' because we know they are not. So we said something and did something about it. And, ultimately we were supported for it.
I am certainly not alone in this fight. Chad and Ann Hoover, two spiritual war veterans, have pioneered legitimate CARP campus activity for the past 30 years at Cornell University.
A little background on Cornell: It was founded in 1865 by a Quaker (Ezra Cornell) who started an endowment for the purpose of allowing different religions to give service on campus. This endowment laid the foundation for interfaith work on campus. Today, Cornell University boasts the oldest interfaith organization of its kind, recently celebrating its 80th birthday.
Though founded upon these principles, the University went through a few growing pains to truly live up to them. The fertilizers for the school's growth were Chad and Ann Hoover, who consistently and steadfastly laid the ground work for freedom of their own religion, Unificationism. In so doing, they managed to bring Cornell University a bit closer to achieving its potential as a welcoming multi-faith university as dreamed by its founder in 1865.
The Hoovers' journey began in 1980, when Chad Hoover graduated from the Unification Theological Seminary (UTS). At that time, the Reverend Dr. Sun Myung Moon, founder of the Unification Church, spoke about one of his purposes of the seminary, which was that people would be able to digest Unification thought and expand it while going out into respected fields.
For Chad Hoover, Reverend Moon's words "planted the seed in my mind that I should pursue a master's degree in architecture."
Therefore, after doing CARP missionary work for about a year, he applied to Cornell University with letters of recommendation from his undergrad alma mater Cooper Union and from UTS. "I had not heard from them in time and when I followed up with the school, they said they did not know what happened to my application. However, a professor at the school eventually stumbled upon my application, saw how qualified I was to attend Cornell's master's program and called me back the next day with an acceptance to the University. Not only that, but when I mentioned that I could not afford to attend, the professor said he would give me a full scholarship in addition to a stipend and teaching assistantship."
Mr. Hoover accepted his offer, and did not learn of the bizarre circumstances surrounding his application, until this particular fundamentalist Christian professor shared them with him as he was on his way to another university
"The professor told me that the person who I applied to set my application aside because I was obviously a 'Moonie' She said the application was misplaced, but the Christian professor said he was in the office when she found it and when she called the graduate program to ensure that a letter of rejection had been sent to me. She explained over the phone that I went to UTS, so I am a `Moonie' and cannot come here. The Christian professor rebuked saying 'that is religious discrimination' in a loud enough voice that the grad school admission officer on the other end of the line could hear him and agree that that was in fact religious discrimination, so they admitted me. The professor explained to me that one of the reasons why he decided to go to Cornell was that he believed God wants to get back into higher education. I realized that that is exactly what Father explains as CARP's mission, and I knew that this was not an accident; somehow God wanted me to go to Cornell."
Mr. Hoover spoke with his central figure, Tiger Park, about the possibility of going to Cornell, and Park gave him his blessings with the hope that Mr. Hoover would establish a CARP club on the campus. At the time, the requirements for establishing a club at Cornell were that you needed one student, and no advisor. Therefore, since he fit those requirements, Chad established the club on his own.
In 1982, Chad Hoover was blessed in holy matrimony to Ann who had been supporting CARP activities from 1979, in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Washington D.C., and then in Georgia after graduating from UTS. After they married, Mrs. Hoover joined her husband at Cornell. They worked together actively on the Cornell campus, doing a number of campaigns, including a Stop Sex Now, or Else program, ironically (at least in the eyes of their campus), while Mrs. Hoover was pregnant. Eventually their central figure became Henry Schauffler who recommended that the Hoovers write up a report on their activities at Cornell and what they were hoping to do. After receiving their report, Reverend Moon said he wanted them to stay at Cornell, Mr. Hoover should become an architect, get a PHD, and teach. He also said that they should make Cornell CARP the best in the country
Upon hearing Reverend Moon's comments, the Hoover's decided to "take this as both our blessing and our charge, and while there were many things that could have pulled us in different directions, we always went back to needing to succeed with Cornell CARP in some substantial way."
They went on to say that "after receiving that blessing from Father, none of the infrastructure for staying at Cornell was in place, since I had recently been laid off from a job. However, what informed our decision to stay was this commission we received as a couple and we decided we would stay and try to develop it. We found a tremendous amount of spiritual assistance in our situation. Every step of the way it was as if God determined exactly what we needed (no more and no less) and said that is what you are going to get, and we always got just that:'
And so over the next couple of decades, the Hoovers pioneered legitimate CARP work in an effort to build the best chapter in the country at one of the country's premier institutions for higher education. However, shortly after beginning their work on campus, they encountered resistance from the director of student union and activities, who happened to work concurrently for the newly formed Cult Awareness Network (CAN).
According to Mrs. Hoover, "This director of student unions and activities learned that we were in the Unification Church, and he began checking up on us. He began meeting with the resident directors and helped them do programs on cult awareness and explain to the students that they should avoid the Unification Church. Also, in conjunction with the director of the interfaith organization at Cornell, he decided to organize an official orientation specifically created to warn incoming freshmen of the Unification Church's presence on campus."
Prior to this orientation, the director of student unions introduced a movie called A Ticket to Heaven to the campus, which is based on a distortion of the early days of the church in Oakland and brainwashing.
Mr. Hoover commented on this film saying, "After displaying the movie, he said to the audience that `this is a clear and present danger; we have cults on campus, and CARP is a front group of the Unification Church. I rebuked these statements, and had proof to deny them because I was the one who submitted the paper work for CARP and clearly indicated that it was founded by Rev. Sun Myung Moon. We ended up on radio and television programs with this staff member, and although he appeared to be a very nice person, he would twist statements and words around to make the Unification Church and our work through CARP look bad. He was a snake."
It was very clear to the Hoovers that this Director of Student Union and Activities was terribly wrong in his actions, and they should not simply allow him to continue denouncing and spreading lies about a legitimate religion. The Hoovers were also aware that the incoming freshmen class would be the recipients of Cornell's first orientation specifically designed to warn students about the Unification Church. This was organized by the Director of Student Union and Activities and the Director of the Interfaith Group. This freshman class included the school's first second generation student who would have to undergo his church being denounced in front of his entire freshman class.
"We used this detail as drive to push harder against this staff member," Mr. Hoover explained, "and we made the case for religious discrimination to faculty, particularly those who were concerned with human rights. We were finally able to meet with the provost, who could not ignore me since I was an adjunct and recognized as a man of integrity in the school:'
Because of these efforts, the Hoovers managed to cancel the orientation all together. Furthermore, a minister who was a member of an interfaith organization, who helped Reverend Moon while he was imprisoned, came to visit Cornell's campus, learned of this anti-Unificationist staff member and then said he was going to "have his job;' in other words, get him fired. Shortly after this visit, that is exactly what happened, the anti-Unificationist Director of Student Union and Activities who worked for CAN was let go.
"Through this experience, we learned first-hand that in an open society you may not be treated fairly, but you have a better chance than a more closed society to have things corrected. But in order to do that, you have to stand up and take the heat:'
It was after this and some other debacles that the Hoovers learned how important it was for them to focus on supporting the internal growth of second generation.
For Mrs. Hoover, "Externally being persistent is important. Internally it was important to be consistent to serve the needs of the students on campus:'
Mr. Hoover added, "We had realized over a number of years that the primary focus had to be on the spiritual formation of the 2nd gen who were coming on campus. Second generation members needed spiritual education in the sense that they had not converted to the faith and processed what it meant to be a Unificationist:'
For this undertaking, they acknowledged how incredibly helpful it was that they were able to work together as a couple as opposed to individually.
Ann went on to say, "Sometimes Chad would take the lead, and I would be home pregnant or watching the kids, and for a period of time I would take the lead. This helped us prevent burn out:'
Mr. Hoover says he felt that, "our personality and gender differences meant that sometimes one or the other would be better at connecting with different students. It is not just theoretically a good idea to seek couples to do this, but in terms of the team work, any married couple who has been able to work through difficulties of a marriage and build a loving relationship has a lot to offer when you are trying to teach students about the importance of family. We found that we could support each other and make up for each others' weaknesses working as a team, much more so than as individuals working alone."
As a couple, Ann and Chad were able to contribute different things to their campus ministry and activities.
'Ann has been much more of an activist with our student activities, and we have had very interesting team work. If only one of us had done CARP work and the other was totally consumed with other things and not interested in pursuing it on campus, we wouldn't have been able to do it. The individual is not a substitute for the couple especially around the issue of mentoring. We were able to show that we may look at things in different ways but we still love each other:'
To her husband's comments, Ann added, "For Sunday service at home, I prepared the food and Chad created the structure. Our home on Sundays is where the students feel most comfortable and the most amount of love."
Their unity and perseverance as a couple was what carried the Hoovers and CARP at Cornell to the present day, when they were finally able to apply for the Campus Ministry Association.
She also said, "It wasn't until last year that we finally had 10 students enrolled concurrently, which is the amount we needed to become a part of the Campus Ministry Association. Within two months, the school reviewed our application and accepted us into the Campus Ministry Association. It was on the foundation of perseverance and consistency. If we had dropped out of being present and active on the campus, it would have been difficult for us to regain the status of our application being pending:'
In retrospect, Mr. Hoover, feels that their efforts with CARP at Cornell "have been by the school of hard knocks. We didn't conceptually have a framework. It was a matter of
trying different things and finding out what worked and stopping what didn't. We started our campus activities with the Director of the Interfaith Group standing together with the director of student unions and activities saying that we are the bad guys, to the school finally acknowledging that we have a right to exist and are a legitimate religion, to last year becoming chaplains on campus- almost 21 years later."
Though their course at Cornell has caused them to sacrifice many things, especially in terms of career success, the Hoovers stuck with CARP and they pulled through.
Mr. Hoover concludes, "My life could have been different in many ways, because of my background and talent in architecture, I could have had a significant and successful position in Manhattan. I could do very little with just my architecture practice in Ithaca, but it was always clear to me that God wanted something to happen at this campus, which is why we took at face value the words of encouragement from Father, which was to make it the best chapter in the country. It still feels like God wants things to develop, which is why we want to continue. We feel that in concert with the national organization, we can create a pattern that will work all over the country. Different things can happen in different places, but what we did is sustainable:'
Being faced with such challenges and struggles why didn't they give up?
"There were many times when I felt like giving up," he goes on to say, "because there was a whole slew of things that Father wanted us to do, which I felt were hard in a small town. Sometimes the commission felt more like a sentence, but the deeper we got into it, the more we realized the wisdom and importance of it. I finally got to the point that it didn't matter if anyone told me that I should stop doing this, it was simply the right thing to do. It was what was needed. That kind of ownership was what was central in any of this work:'
The Hoovers managed to create and maintain the best CARP chapter in America; most consistently running as a legitimate club (for almost 30 years), with the highest Unificationist participation rate. At the CARP Winter Ball in January, 2010, they were awarded "Best CARP chapter in the country," publicly acknowledging that they headed the call by our True Parents and accomplished it. We are blessed to have such a couple so dedicated to giving Unificationists, and all students, a place to feel comfortable and loved in their faith practice. The Hoovers battled the forces that were to bring God back to higher education, which was True Parents' intention in creating CARP. They stood up to persecution and were victorious.
Reverend In Jin Moon, President and CEO of the Unification Church in America, has been speaking a lot lately about the importance of being proud of who we are as Unificationists, and acknowledging that we are decent folks trying to live a great life with God in our families. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, and we shouldn't let people tell us otherwise.
I thank the Hoovers for standing tall, not wavering, and showing me the possibilities of what can be done on campus, despite persecution and resistance. I know I have much to learn from Ann and Chad Hoover, and I hope this article helps spread their incredible message of perseverance, consistency, and righteousness a bit further. In addition to their roles as Cornell CARP advisors and members of the Cornell Campus Ministry Association, Chad Hoover serves on the CARP Board of Directors, so he can share his wisdom with the national organization and continue to help students, nationally, throughout their college careers.