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Californian Church Hires D.C. Lobbying Firm to Advocate for Protection of Religious Rights

San Francisco Zion Church, a California-based church associated with Shincheonji Church of Jesus, has officially filed and begun its religious rights advocacy campaign to lobby the United States government for greater support of religious rights and freedoms of its members.

A representative from San Francisco Zion Church, Ki Lee, has contracted the Livingston Group to represent the Church’s members and their concerns. The official FARA filing states that Ki and San Francisco Zion Church have engaged the Livingston Group in order to “inform U.S. officials about the persecution and undue treatment of associated churches in the Republic of Korea and the United States.”

The purpose of the lobbying work will be to inform the United States government about the history of past and recent discrimination Shincheonji members have faced, and seek the U.S. government’s support for the protection of its members’ religious freedom to practice their faith without undue harassment.

In February, Shincheonji’s branch church in Daegu, South Korea, became the site of a COVID-19 super-spreader event that resulted in over 5,000 cases across the peninsula. The church promptly shut its doors and cooperated with local officials to help contain the virus’ spread. However, the media reports generated at the onset of the outbreak resulted in a public outrage that ended in the indictment of its leaders for charges relating to the virus’ spread.

Since the outbreak, Shincheonji Church has collaborated with the South Korean government’s contact tracing and prevention efforts. Additionally, the church has collaborated with the Korean Centers for Disease Control to donate plasma for COVID-19 research and treatment. About 1,100 members donated plasma last week. Despite this, Shincheonji Church has been misrepresented and vilified in the media, and this has had a negative impact on members and the communities in which they reside.

In South Korea alone, there have been over 6,000 self-reported cases of discrimination that Shincheonji members have faced, including two cases of spousal abuse resulting in suicide. Although U.S. Citizens are under the protection of the law, their rights and privacy have likewise been violated and members have reported cases of discrimination and harassment.

As such, San Francisco Zion Church is seeking to protect and support the religious rights and freedoms of Shincheonji and its members by firstly informing of said abuses, and providing correct information about the Church and its impact on United States society.

The lobbying contract between San Francisco Zion Church’s representative, Ki Lee, and the Livingston Group, will allow Church members to engage in dialogue with government officials to discuss how members’ rights can be protected and to improve the Church’s public image.

Shincheonji members in the U.S. and abroad have been recognized by local organizations and municipalities for their volunteering work and contributions. In September 2020, San Francisco Zion Church and its members’ volunteerism was recently highlighted by the City of Sacramento’s Parks & Community Enrichment Commission.