AP 07/19 2356 Another Look: Bayou-Moon
By GARRY MITCHELL Associated Press Writer
BAYOU LA BATRE, Ala. (AP) -- South Korean evangelist Sun Myung
Moon's quiet visits to this coastal Alabama fishing town are
reminders that his Unification Church put down roots here in
not-so-quiet fashion about 10 years ago.
The arrival of the Moonies, as followers of the faith became
known, touched off protests and a petition drive to keep them out
of the clannish bayou.
But much has changed in a decade.
The Moon followers remain, although they number only about 50
Claiming religious discrimination in Bayou La Batre, the local
Unification Church members successfully sued the city 10 years
ago to block a rezoning attempt that would have jeopardized use
of the 722 acres owned by two church-related seafood and
The Moonies have become "good neighbors," said Mayor J.F.
Part of the initial fear was that Unification Church members
would proselytize their children about Moon's beliefs, local
people recalled. The Rev. Thomas J. Sheppard, a United
Methodist minister, said he hadn't noticed any religious outreach
program by Moon followers.
Still, he considers Bayou La Batre the "Southern headquarters"
for the Unification Church. "I've seen them bringing 18 or 19
busloads of people here for meetings," Sheppard said.
"In the communities in which they live, I believe they want to
be accepted. They make pretty good neighbors," the minister
The bayou has about 1,300 registered voters, and Moon's
followers have not sought elective office.
Police Capt. Curtis R. Roensch praised Moon followers for
organizing a community watch program that has reduced the number
of burglaries and a boat registration program that has made it
easier to keep up with crews and boat equipment.
There have been other changes in this 201-year-old fishing
town, once a haven for Cajun settlers, now a sort of religious
and ethnic gumbo.
The small numbers of Unification Church members have been
obscured by about 800 Indochinese refugees who began arriving in
1978 to take seafood processing jobs and work aboard shrimp
Bayou La Batre now has seven businesses run by Indochinese,
including a pool hall and Saigon, a restaurant.
"In a little while they'll own this country," grumbled Jim
Odom, a customer at Donna's Grocery Store in nearby Irvington.
Odom, a state prison system employee, said he fought in Korea and
acknowledged his prejudice against Asians.
But many locals praised the hard work of the Vietnamese,
Cambodians, Laotians and Thais. The mayor said his big problem
is teaching the Indochinese refugees to drive on the right side
of the road.
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