San Francisco Zion Church has contracted with the lobbying firm, The Livingston Group, in order to provide an accurate representation of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus to local U.S. communities and the U.S. Government.
San Francisco Zion Church is associated with the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, a church and religious denomination that was founded in the Republic of Korea. Established in 1984 by Lee Man Hee, Shincheonji has gained global notoriety during the coronavirus pandemic. It was at the center of a superspreader event in Daegu, South Korea, where the coronavirus infected upwards of 4,000 church members.
International news organizations broke the story, blaming the rapid spread of the virus on Shincheonji’s secretive practices. The organization was commonly labeled with terms such as a “doomsday cult” and a “secretive sect,” and the New York Times used the term “proselytizing robots” to describe its members.
With the negative portrayal of the organization in the global news media, members of the organization have faced increased discrimination and persecution. Members have since faced job losses, spousal abuse, and two members even fell off their apartment balconies to their deaths during heated arguments with spouses over their continued affiliation with Shincheonji.
In its Foreign Agents Registration Statement, San Francisco Zion Church and its representative, Ki Lee, describe the proposed activities that the Livingston Group will carry out on their behalf. The primary activity is to “inform U.S. officials about the persecution and undue treatment of associated churches in the Republic of Korea and the United States, which also have implications for the privacy rights of U.S. citizens. The registrant will seek to encourage the U.S. government to address these issues in an appropriate manner.”
The sentiment towards Shincheonji has long been negative due to misinformation about the Church and its practices. When Shincheonji was revealed to be at the center of the superspreader event in Daegu, over 1.2 million people signed a petition to dissolve Shincheonji by force.
The church’s attempts to rectify the situation have largely been ignored and treated with contempt. Chairman Man Hee Lee held a press conference in early March, apologizing publicly to the people of Korea and the government. In another example, Shincheonji proactively donated 12 billion won (roughly $10.1 million) for the fight against coronavirus, but the money was not accepted because of Shincheonji’s poor public reputation.
In late August, over 1,100 members who had recovered from COVID-19 donated their plasma for free, prompting the Korea Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (KCDC) to express their thanks. In July, 500 members from Shincheonji donated their plasma to the KCDC.
Through the partnership with The Livingston Group, San Francisco Zion Church will communicate to public officials and U.S. Government leaders an accurate portrayal of how Shincheonji and its members have been victims of negative press and stigma, and how this has led to the discrimination and abuse of thousands of members. The Church seeks to emphasize that no one should be harassed due to their religious affiliation, and that members deserve protection of privacy and safety.
(Syndicated press content)