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Unification Church denies government charges, seeks recertification

September 21, 1997

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) _ An official of the Venezuela branch of the Unification Church on Saturday denied government allegations that the church imports illegal immigrants and encourages Venezuelan youths to leave their families.

Jesus Muchacho, president of the Venezuela Federation of Families for World Peace and Unification, which is tied to the Unification Church of Sun Myung Moon, said he welcomes a government investigation because ``the allegations against us are false.″

Last week, the Justice Ministry decertified the church on the grounds that its activities violated Venezuela laws and customs. Muchacho said decertification amounts to religious persecution.

``The only thing our missionaries have done in Venezuela is to promote a campaign in favor of marital fidelity and instead of recognizing that, the authorities are ... prohibiting our activities,″ he said.

The Justice Ministry regulates religious sects in Venezuela. The Unification Church reportedly has operated in Venezuela since the 1970s. It claims a following of 80,000 people.

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