Investigative journalist unravels the donations issue central to claims against Family Federation in Japan
Masumi Fukuda, award-winning Japanese author and investigative journalist, has written an in-depth report titled “Dissolve the Anti-Cult Lawyer Group, Not the Unification Church.” She is referring to a group of leftwing activist lawyers who have specialized in fabricating false “victims”.
In a series of four articles, Bitter Winter, the online magazine for human rights and religious freedom, has published her report originally written in Japanese and published by the magazine Monthly Hanada in its February 2024 issue.
The current case where the Japanese authorities have requested Tokyo District Court to issue an order to dissolve the Family Federation, is based on a media outcry surrounding “victims”, largely orchestrated by an organization of activist lawyers of National Network of Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales, an organization founded 37 years ago to eliminate the Unification Church.
According to Masumi Fukuda, many individuals voluntarily donated to the Family Federation, but later, due to a loss of faith or familial pressure, requested refunds. Historically, the Family Federation has typically honored such refund requests, which is uncommon for religious organizations and may inadvertently lead to unintended consequences.
The investigative journalist writes,
“National Network of Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales (NNLASS) is fabricating new “victims” by provoking individuals with statements like, “Let’s negotiate for a refund. Let’s sue. If you do that, you will get your money back.” Thus, there are two types of plaintiffs: ex-believers who are instigated by NNLASS lawyers who say, “You can easily recover the money you donated,” and those who are victims of deprogramming—ex-believers who were kidnapped and confined by their families and then persuaded to sue by the deprogrammers.”
On the other hand, it’s likely shocking for the Family Federation to hear that their “systematic solicitation of donations” is cited as grounds for a dissolution order, potentially violating Article 81, Paragraph 1, of the Religious Corporations Act. Critics argue that excessive donations to the Family Federation, deemed unnecessary by some, contradict the true purpose of religious organizations. However, donations are crucial for fulfilling the fundamental purposes of religious groups such as spreading teachings, conducting ceremonies, and educating believers.
“Opponents often criticize the high donations to the FFWPU, claiming condescendingly that “God doesn’t need money.” However, for religious organizations to fulfill these purposes, donations are essential. Actually, God does indeed need money.”
Additionally, donations are the primary income source for non-profit religious corporations. Despite this, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) views systematic donation solicitation as deviating significantly from a religious organization’s purpose, a conclusion seen as shortsighted and lacking understanding of religious dynamics.
The Family Federation asserts that donations mainly support overseas missionary activities and educational expenses, aligning with the core purposes of religious corporations. They maintain that donation collection aims to support these activities rather than financial gain.
Masumi Fukuda maintains that in essence, soliciting donations for religious purposes should be acceptable as long as it’s not coercive or extortionate. Unlike cases where dissolution orders were granted, such as the Myokaku-ji [temple near Osaka belonging to Nichiren Buddhism] case, the Family Federation hasn’t faced criminal charges or fraud allegations under the Penal Code or Civil Code.
Fukuda interviewed four individuals who had made significant donations to the Family Federation, formerly known as the Unification Church. The donation practices of the church were a central factor in the request for its dissolution. Among these followers, three were women and one was a man.
Michiko Tsuji, a 73-year-old woman residing in Tokyo, joined the Family Federation in August 1983. She recounted how a fellow believer visited her home that same year to sell a personal seal. There were no coercive tactics used, and Tsuji, who was expecting a child at the time, was intrigued by the believer’s fortune-telling and name analysis services. She ended up purchasing a set of seals for 240,000 yen, considering it a mysterious guidance. Subsequently, she and her husband attended Family Federation exhibitions and eventually purchased a pagoda.
Tsuji, who had been leading a prosperous life, often faced jests from acquaintances questioning her involvement with the Unification Church. However, she was searching for deeper meaning in her life since the age of 15. The Unification Church provided answers to her existential quest.
After acquiring the pagoda, Tsuji had several spiritual experiences, such as feeling a sensation of ascending from hell to heaven while climbing a historic temple staircase in Korea. She experienced “spiritual movement” and saw her maternal grandmother’s face, which led her to pray for causes like the reunification of Korea and world peace.
Learning about Reverend Sun Myung Moon‘s sacrificial efforts to save humanity, Tsuji adopted the teaching to live for the sake of others. Over the forty years of her membership, she and her husband have donated a total of 100 million yen.
While Tsuji emphasizes that donations are not compulsory, she believes that understanding the importance of God’s providence, which is God‘s plan for humanity’s salvation, naturally leads to contributions. Providence, as explained by the Unification Church, guides believers on how to act for humanity’s salvation, particularly in the context of combating ideologies like communism. However, Tsuji acknowledges the potential issues if excessive donations lead to neglecting family responsibilities.
She reflects on how some early believers, driven by their zeal for achieving world peace and paradise on earth, neglected their families. This serves as a point of introspection for the Family Federation according to Tsuji.
Continued in part 3
“Donations Issue: ‘God Does Indeed Need Money’” – text: Knut Holdhus
More on donations issue: Lawyers Manipulating, Coercing, Lying
Yet more on donations issue: Undercover Study Found Allegations Untrue
Even more on donations issue: No Reasons for Dissolution
Still more on donations issue: Dangerous Precedent to Crush Religions
And even more on donations issue: Disinformation Dispelled at Press Conference
And yet more on donations issue: Sinister Plot of Hostile Lawyers Exposed
And still more on donations issue: Parents Pay for Activism of Pastors and Lawyers