Fast Company

Warning: This Could Ruin Your Appetite for Sushi

Maybe I've still got food on the brain following our first Food Issue, but I'm fascinated by a recent story in the Chicago Tribune about Sun Myung Moon's sushi empire. Yes, that Sun Myung Moon. Founder of the controversial Unification Church. Hailed as the messiah by followers. Considered a cult leader by critics.

In the 1970s, Reverend Moon set his sites on creating an elaborate fishing enterprise to fund his church. The now global business does it all, from building the fishing boats to catching, processing, and delivering the fish. True World Foods, a subsidiary of the non-profit Unification Church International, supplies most of the sushi restaurants in the country, about 7,000 restaurants in all.

True World is obviously not the only business straddling religion and commerce. Chick-fil-A, a past winner of our Customer First awards, certainly isn't shy about espousing its Christian values. At the store opening I attended, they were a big draw; some customers even conducted a Bible study session while waiting in line for the doors to open.

But Reverend Moon's dominance of the sushi industry was news to me. And while I haven't given up sushi, it's definitely given me pause. How about you? Does it matter that your spicy tuna roll ultimately supports the Unification Church? Can you separate the cause from the product?

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17 Comments

  • Pat

    The proceeds of my sushi roll going to the Unification Church bother me much less than the proceeds of a gallon of gasoline going to line the pokets of the oil industry.

  • Michael

    I wrote a comment, why are you not publishing it ?
    It was to be the second comment when I wrote it 14 hours ago...
    Thanks for explanations...

  • Thomas Tolleson

    I'm glad that other religious views are making it into the business world.

    Remember:

    A cult is a religion with no political power.

    Tom Wolfe (1931 - )

  • Adam

    Religious organizations should keep their tax-exempt status. For profit subsidiaries of churches pay taxes like everyone else.

  • Charles Dewar

    When will we get rid of tax-exempt status for religious organizations? Never in this society. Perhaps in a future enlightened one.

  • Uncle Fester

    I think people are missing the big picture here. For alot of different reasons, non-profit organizations with social-based missions have struggled these last few years with being able to fundraise. Resorting to for-profit free-market enterprises to supplant the traditional "begging and giving" benefits all parties involved. True World Foods may be sort of a weird example of this, but other organizations would benefit greatly by crossing over into, or associating themselves with, money-making ventures and enterprises.

  • Mark Brown

    If you stop buying/eating food because of religious affiliations or political views of the owning company then you will have a very limited menu to choose from.

  • Jake

    I think it's ok for churches to get involved with business to generate extra income. Just as long as there isn't any corruption.

  • Snake

    Moonies own a newspaper, in the most important city in the world, which is often quoted by the right as a reliable source of accurate information.

    And you're wondering about sushi?

  • Lavinia Gene Weissman

    This certainly opens a question of what happens when a "movement" viewed as a cult, has to relate to the public as a customer? It gave me a laff when I thought of the question.