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Contesting What It Considers an Unlawful Fine

Tokyo District Court

Family Federation of Japan refusing to pay what it regards as unlawful fine

Family Federation of Japan victim of biased information
From the header of ffwpu.jp, the official homepage of the Family Federation of Japan.

Official statement regarding the Tokyo District Court’s decision to order the payment of a fine in case about exercising the right to question [a religious organization]

Press Release 27th March 2024, translated from Japanese. See Japanese original version.

Family Federation for World Peace and Unification of Japan

Tomihiro Tanaka
Tomihiro Tanaka, here at press conference in Tokyo 7th Nov. 2023. Photo: Screenshot from live transmission by the Family Federation of Japan.

On 26th March 2024, the Tokyo District Court ruled that the president of the religious organisation, Tomihiro Tanaka, would be fined 100,000 yen in a trial about the lawfulness of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) issuing a notice of fine to the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification for refusing to answer questions.

Religious Corporations Act of Japan
Front page of 2018 English version of Religious Corporations Act of Japan.

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) argued in this trial about the fine  that from the standpoint that ‘violation of laws and regulations’ includes torts under the Civil Code, it is legal to exercise the right to question as there is a “suspicion” (Article 78-2, Paragraph 1, Item 3 of the law) that corresponds to the dissolution reason of “having committed acts that clearly harm public welfare by violating laws and regulations”, as stipulated in Article 81, Paragraph 1, Item 1 of the Religious Corporations Act (hereinafter referred to as ‘the Act’).

In response, the Family Federation argued, based on past Supreme Court precedents, that Article 709 of the Civil Code is not included in “violation of laws and regulations”, and that the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) did not specify which laws and regulations have been violated (did not claim a violation of Article 709 of the Civil Code). MEXT also failed to allege any requirements constituting a ground for dissolution. The Family Federation argued that the exercise of the right to question was unlawful.

Civil Code of Japan vol 1
An English exact reproduction of The Civil Code of Japan, vol. 1, 4th edition, first published 1906.

In response, the Tokyo District Court ruled that the word “laws” in the expression “violating laws and regulations” includes the Civil Code, and wrongly held that torts under Civil Code Article 709 are included in “violation of law” because it includes the prohibitive norm that the rights, etc. of others must not be unlawfully infringed, making the exercise of the right to ask questions lawful.

However, according to a Supreme Court precedent of 11th July 1997, the tort system (Article 709 of the Civil Code) is not interpreted as a prohibitive norm for the prevention and deterrence of harmful acts, and in legal studies and legal practice, there is no concept of ‘violation of Article 709 of the Civil Code’. Therefore, the Family Federation will immediately file an appeal to Tokyo High Court to have the erroneous verdict overturned.

At a Tokyo press conference last year, 8th September 2023, Attorney Nobuya Fukumoto representing the Family Federation of Japan explained the Family Federation’s stance and how it will respond to the Kishida administration exercising the right to question the religious organization. Fukumoto stated,

Nobuya Fukumoto pointing out unlawful fine
Nobuya Fukumoto, here at press conference 16th Oct. 2023. Photo: Screenshot from live transmission by FFWPU

“The exercise of the right to ask questions was carried out by the Government, by changing the interpretation of the law overnight. It does not comply with the guidelines for the exercise of the implementation of the right of questioning written in the Religious Corporations Act, article 78,2. We consider this to be unlawful.

Therefore, we consider that we are justified in not answering such unlawfully made questions, whether in part or in full. A fine for refusing to answer is not admissible. We intend to contest the fine in court and fight the case all the way in order to seek a dismissal.

Featured image above: Public office building of Japan with Tokyo High Court and Tokyo District Court. Photo: / Wikimedia Commons. License: CC ASA 3.0 Unp. Cropped

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