Washington Times Accused of Forcing Church on Employee

November 18, 2009 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - The former editorial page editor of the Washington Times has filed a discrimination complaint against the paper, saying he was "coerced" into attending a Unification Church religious ceremony that culminated in a mass wedding conducted by the church's leader, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon.

The Washington Post reports that Richard Miniter, who was also vice president of opinion, made the claim in a filing Tuesday with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that also disclosed he was fired last month. According to the newspaper, Miniter said in an interview that he “was made to feel there was no choice” but to attend the ceremony if he wanted to keep his job, and that executives “gave me examples of people whose careers at the Times had grown after they converted” to the Unification Church.

A Times spokesman said the paper would not comment.

Miniter, an Episcopalian who tried to avoid attending by saying he had to worship at his own church, said the Times had invited him to other such events, and that the newspaper paid for his travel to the event last December in New York. He also noted that he and other company executives, including church member Thomas P. McDevitt, then the Times’ president and publisher, stayed at the church-owned New Yorker Hotel.

The Times, owned by Unification Church officials, has said since its 1982 founding that it is editorially independent of the church, and numerous editors and reporters have said over the years that they encountered no interference from the ownership, according to the news report.

In the EEOC complaint, Miniter, 42, also charges the Times with discriminating against him on the basis of age and disability. He said Times executives expressed concern about the frequency of his medical appointments after a 10-day hospitalization for chest pains. He was hired as a Times consultant last October and tapped for the editorial page in March, and he remains on the masthead, but his lawyer said the Times is “trading off his name. . . . but he’s not being paid.”

Asked earlier this month about Miniter’s lengthy absence, the Times issued a statement praising his “insights and innovation” and saying that the two sides “are discussing his compensation.” Minter said he was never given a reason for his termination.