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Arbitrary Populist Measures Against Religion

Fumio Kishida taking arbitrary populist measures

Kishida is warned that arbitrary populist measures against the Family Federation may backfire.

18th September 2023 – Published as an article in the Japanese newspaper Sekai Nippo. Republished with permission. Translated from Japanese. Original article

Dissolution request is the worst populism

By Susumu Fujihashi

Sekai Nippo writing about arbitrary populist measures
The Sekai Nippo logo
Fumio Kishida 14th July 2022. Photo: 首相官邸 / Wikimedia Commons. License: CC Attr 4.0 Int. Cropped

At a press conference after the inauguration of the reshuffled Cabinet, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said, “Finally, I would like to say a few words about the former Unification Church.” “We will make a final effort to reach a firm conclusion on this issue, and we will make a final decision based on the law, listening to the opinions of the Council of Religious Corporations.”

Following the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in July last year, the LDP declared that it would sever ties with the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (formerly the Unification Church, hereinafter referred to as the Family Federation). The government exercised the right of questioning seven times under the Religious Corporations Law with a view to ordering the dissolution of the Family Federation. For failing to answer some of the questions, the court notified the Tokyo District Court to impose a fine that would amount to administrative penalties to the Family Federation.

The government is expected to request a dissolution order for the Family Federation as early as October, and the notice of the fine is seen as a stepping stone to that end. In response to this, the Family Federation has requested the dismissal of the fine from the standpoint that “the exercise of the right to question itself is illegal in the first place” and is taking a stance of fully contesting the fine in court.

The requirements for exercising the right to question under the Religious Corporations Act cited violations of laws and regulations, but Prime Minister Kishida expressed the view that violations of laws and regulations refer to criminal cases in his reply to the Diet in October last year, but the next day he changed the interpretation to include civil cases. It was an unprecedented event, such as a change in the interpretation of the law overnight, and it can only be assumed that political considerations played a role.

Masaru Wakasa, lawyer and politician. Photo (2013): Ogiyoshisan / Wikimedia Commons. License: CC Attr 3.0 Unp. Cropped

Masaru Wakasa, a lawyer, expressed concern on his YouTube program that this problem would be at the core of the rule of law in Japan, saying, “If we arbitrarily proceed with something that does not meet the conditions of the law, it will eventually bounce back on us.”

“If the former Unification Church was indeed engaged in a gross violation of laws and regulations or something that seriously harmed the public welfare, I have no objection whatsoever to the dissolution order issued by the court and the dissolution of the religious corporation,” the lawyer said, adding, “It is implicitly political to show that the LDP has completely distanced itself from the former Unification Church. Even if it is unreasonable, it should not be necessary to file a petition for the dissolution of a religious corporation.”

In the age of mass democracy, some populism will be necessary to advance politics. However, populism must be avoided at all costs especially in matters directly related to the existence of the country, such as diplomacy and security, and issues related to the fundamentals of the national body (the state of the country) such as the imperial family, freedom and democracy, and the rule of law.

The Cabinet reshuffle and the call for the dissolution of the Family Federation are seen as part of the preparation of the environment for the dissolution of the House of Representatives and the general election. There are various views on the timing of the dissolution, but in any case, it is the worst kind of populism, such as scapegoating a specific religious group through arbitrary interpretation of the law and carries the danger of destroying the very foundation of the rule of law and democracy.

Featured image above: Fumio Kishida at press conference in Teheran 6th October 2015. Photo: Hamed Malekpour / Tasnim News Agency / Wikimedia Commons. License: CC Attr 4.0 Int.

“Arbitrary Populist Measures Against Religion” – text: Susumu Fujihashi (藤橋 進)

More about arbitrary populist measures: Government Changing the Law Overnight

Even more about arbitrary populist measures: Claims: Government Acting Illegally


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