Tokyo conference on religious freedom denounces Japanese state persecution
2nd October 2023 – Published as an article in the Japanese newspaper Sekai Nippo. Republished with permission. Translated from Japanese. Original article
Former Unification Church: Domestic and foreign experts appeal for protection of religious freedom
By Sekai Nippo Editorial Department
Tokyo International Religious Freedom Roundtable
Amid growing prospects for the government to demand a dissolution order for the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (formerly the Unification Church), a “Special International Religious Freedom Roundtable” was held in Tokyo on 1st October to appeal for the protection of religious freedom. Domestic and foreign experts in attendance expressed their strong opposition to the request for dissolution.
Italian sociologist of religion Massimo Introvigne called concepts such as “cult” and “brainwashing” used to criticize the Family Federation “pseudoscience”. “It is surprising that theories that have been rejected by scholars and courts in the United States and most European countries since the 1990s, are still uncritically accepted in Japan,” he said, expressing the view that the attack on the Family Federation is even an anomaly internationally.
Holly Folk, a professor at Western Washington University in the USA, pointed out that the Japan Communist Party played a major role in the fight against the Family Federation, and it is likely that anti-cult movements in Europe and the Chinese Communist Party were involved. She said the movement for dissolution was part of an international anti-religious campaign, claiming, “the short-term target is the Family Federation, but the larger target is religious freedom and the right of freedom of conscience itself. They are trying to make the anti-Family Federation movement in Japan a precedent for other constitutional democracies.”
Attorney Tatsuki Nakayama emphasized, “The Family Federation does not meet any of the three requirements for a dissolution request: violation of laws and regulations must be of a systematic nature, malicious, and continuous. Therefore, the Family Federation should not be disbanded.” He also held that the Religious Corporations Law did not give religious groups the right to a fair trial and was “unconstitutional”.
Journalist Masumi Fukuda criticized the Agency for Cultural Affairs for cooperating when exercising the right to pose questions to the Family Federation, with the National Network of Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales (National Benren), which had been demanding the dissolution of the Family Federation since its formation in 1987. “The National Network of Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales teamed up with the Agency for Cultural Affairs and gave them instructions on what to do. It is highly questionable whether the Agency for Cultural Affairs, with a hostile organisation as a collaborator, was able to make a neutral and fair decision. The claims of the National Network of Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales are being passed on without being checked.”
At the conference, Nadine Maenza, former commissioner of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), which is a bipartisan government advisory body that advises the President, Secretary of State, and Congress on overseas religious freedom issues, and Katrina Lantos Swett, former chair of the same organisation, sent video messages expressing their strong concerns about the move to request a dissolution.
Featured image above: From Special International Religious Freedom Roundtable conference in Tokyo, Japan 1st October 2023. Photo: 中央
“Conference on Religious Freedom Violations” – text: Editorial Department Sekai Nippo
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