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“Dissolution Request Shows Weakness of Kishida”

Weakness of Kishida exposed

Experienced LDP politician claims Prime Minister’s attack on religious minority exposes weakness of Kishida

Toshikazu Masubuchi on red hatred for movement
Toshikazu Masubuchi. Photo: Bitter Winter

Bitter Winter, the online magazine for human rights and religious freedom, published as a series of three articles a report titled “The Unification Church Case in Japan: A Politician Speaks Up.” It was written by a member of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), Toshikazu Masubuchi, who served as speaker of Tochigi Prefectural Assembly 1991-2011.

Bitter Winter exposing forcible detentionOn 29th February 2024, Bitter Winter published the 3rd of its 3 articles. It was headlined “Political Motivations Behind the Request of a Dissolution Order”. There, Masubuchi expresses his view that the current Kishida administration is merely a politically pragmatic government cloaked in conservative attire. The author also claims that Kishida’s request for a dissolution order against the Family Federation “showed his weakness”.

On part 1 in Bitter Winter series, part 2a, part 2b, part 3a

Kazumi Takahashi
Kazumi Takahashi (高橋 和巳 – 1931-1971), Japanese novelist and scholar of Chinese literature. Photo: 河出書房出版社 撮影者不明 / Wikimedia Commons. Public domain image

During his youth, Masubuchi read the novel “Jashumon” (邪宗門) by Kazumi Takahashi (高橋 和巳I). Then the LDP politician grasped the significance of religious liberty as a cornerstone of democratic societies and became adamant that it should not be manipulated by authorities as they pleased. Subsequently, he came to understand that the inclusion of “freedom of religion” in the current Japanese Constitution, in line with democratic principles, was caused by the maltreatment of Judaism in the Christian world up through history.

Being well aware of such a historical injustice, Masubuchi regarded Prime Minister Kishida’s discussion of a dissolution order against the Family Federation merely as a political gesture aimed at boosting his approval ratings. Therefore, the experienced Tochigi politician never entertained the thought that the Kishida administration would in fact pursue an order to dissolve the religious organisation.

Still, on 13th October 2023, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (MEXT) submitted such a request to Tokyo District Court.

Upon reading an article in the Japanese paper Sankei Shimbun the day before that request was made, Masubuchi was taken aback. He wondered whether the Kishida administration aimed to intertwine the dissolution of the House of Representatives with a dissolution order against the Family Federation. According to the newspaper report, Prime Minister Kishida in October 2022, all of a sudden altered the interpretation of the requirements for a dissolution order spelt out by the Religious Corporations Act, sparking dissent among members of the Agency for Religious Affairs.

Under pressure from Kishida administration not to voice opposition: the Agency for Cultural Affairs. Public domain image

Despite this, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (MEXT) pressed agency members, citing potential cabinet repercussions, and looked for consensus. Upon reading this piece, Masubuchi concluded that the Kishida administration was merely a politically pragmatic government cloaked in conservative attire.

Toshikazu Masubuchi explains,

“Other conservative supporters had similar impressions. How can the people trust a Prime Minister who violates freedom of religion for personal protection without adequately countering attacks from opposition parties and the media? For many conservative supporters of the LDP, Prime Minister Kishida’s actions showed his weakness […].”

In spite of the religious persecution he contributed a lot to for the sake of votes, the downward trend in his approval ratings continued.

Masubuchi recalls how the powerful Kishida faction Kochikai within the Liberal Democratic Party decided to dissolve in January 2024 because of political upheavals and the political funds scandals last year,

“The fate of those who deny the ‘Heavenly Will’ can only be described as tragic. How ironic that their faction dissolves while contemplating the dissolution of a religious organization. It is not too late to stop religious persecution immediately.”

The crimes perpetrated by Aum Shinrikyo in the sarin gas terror in Tokyo subway and other incidents would typically be deemed grave offenses tantamount to “subverting the state”. In addition, other crimes associated with that group, such as the murder of adversarial lawyers, are classified as serious offenses even by already existing laws.

Donation allegations debunked. Here: Japanese banknotes
Receiving donations is integral part of religious activities. Here: Japanese banknotes. Photo: Tokyoship / Wikimedia Commons. Public domain image

Masubuchi asks,

“In contrast, what heinous crimes has the FFWPU committed? Donating to a religious cause is a ‘common practice’, and terms like ‘tithing’ in Christian churches are customary. Moreover, other religious groups have boasted about collecting tens of billions of yen overnight or within a few days. From the perspective of individuals from other religions, I may spend hundreds of thousands of yen on nothing more than a ‘posthumous Buddhist name written on a piece of paper’. Is my action a result of being ‘brainwashed’? If such actions were considered crimes, then every religious organization would be subject to dissolution.

Toshikazu Masubuchi’s younger brother, who has been the chairperson of the Tochigi Bar Association, emphasizes that most executives in the bar associations of Japan lean towards the left politically. The request to dissolve the Family Federation, based on the assertions of organizations like the National Network of Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales, which asserts that “religion is an opiate,is absurd.

According to Masubuchi,

“However, if the Kishida administration persists in not withdrawing the dissolution request, the last hope lies with the judiciary. I believe in the integrity of Japan’s judiciary, trusting that it has not become corrupt like the judiciary in South Korea. I want to believe that the courts will not ignore the fundamental human rights of freedom of religion and freedom of thought and conscience.

The LDP politician from Tochigi says that he has previously, on 31st October 2023, articulated his viewpoints in a blog post titled “I Stand Firmly on the Side of Protecting Fundamental Human Rights!”

On part 1 in Bitter Winter series, part 2a, part 2b, part 3a

Featured image above: Prime Minister Fumio Kishida delivering a speech at the COP26 in November 2021. Photo: 首相官邸ホームページ / Wikimedia Commons. License: CC Attr 4.0 Int. Cropped

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