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Japanese Oppression in Religious Freedom Report

Report on Japanese oppression

Annual report by US Department of State Features Japanese oppression of Family Federation 

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Tokyo, 28th June 2024 – Published as an article in the Japanese newspaper Sekai Nippo. Republished with permission. Translated from Japanese. Original article

U.S. State Department Annual Report on Religious Freedom Emphasizes Japan’s Position on Dissolution Request against the Family Federation

by Yosuke Yamazaki (山崎洋介)

Washington – On 26th June 2024, the U.S. State Department published the 2023 edition of its annual report on religious freedom in various countries. With regard to Japan, the report devotes a large section to the government’s request for a court order to dissolve the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (formerly the Unification Church).

The section presents the view of a representative of the Family Federation that Prime Minister Fumio Kishida prioritizes politics over adhering to the law. The report goes further, saying that the US Embassy in Japan has been in contact with Japanese officials, emphasizing the importance of religious freedom “under all circumstances”. This suggests that there are concerns that the Japanese government’s actions may constitute an infringement on religious freedom.

The report points out that the request for the dissolution order made on 13th October of last year, “departed from the conventional standard, which had been based on violations of the Criminal Code, and was ordered based on wrongful acts under the Civil Code.”

Masahito Moriyama's ministry not specifying which laws are broken.
Masahito Moriyama, Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. Photo: 文部科学省 / Wikimedia Commons. License: CC Attr 4.0 Int. Cropped

The section on Japan also highlights that the Family Federation refuted the grounds for dissolution given by Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Masahito Moriyama (盛山正仁), arguing that those grounds “do not comply with the law.”

The 2023 report also introduces the claims by Family Federation followers that they “can no longer publicly practice their faith due to ‘biased’ and ‘hostile’ media coverage and pressure from the National Network of Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales (Zenkoku Benren),” and that they have suffered damage such as being cut off from the local community. Furthermore, the report conveys the members’ concerns that if the dissolution order is approved, society might perceive the religious organization as “evil”.

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

In a press conference on 7th November of last year, Family Federation President Tomihiro Tanaka (田中富広) pointed out that he “officially apologized for the first time as the representative of the organization after the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe two years ago,” and he expressed the intention to “fight the government’s dissolution order request from the perspective of freedom of religion and the rule of law.”

The report also mentions that in September of last year, international lawyer Tatsuki Nakayama (中山達樹) expressed opposition to the dissolution order request, stating that the Kishida administration “is not adhering to the Religious Corporations Act, enacted in 1951,” and appears to be “acting from political motives”.

Tatsuki Nakayama
Attorney Tatsuki Nakayama in January 2024. Photo: Screenshot from live transmission.

On the other hand, the report notes the response of the U.S. government, stating that “the U.S. Embassy in Japan closely monitored issues surrounding the Family Federation and Jehovah’s Witnesses, maintained contact with members of parliament, government regulatory authorities, individuals affected by church practices, and church representatives, and emphasized the importance of religious freedom under all circumstances.”

Furthermore, the report clarifies that officials from the U.S. Embassy and the State Department had urged the Japanese government to “continue to cooperate with the United States in respecting religious freedom both domestically and internationally”.

Featured image above: On 26th June 2024, Secretary of State Antony Blinken (left) holds a press conference regarding the annual report on religious freedom in various countries, published by the U.S. State Department. On the right, US ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom Rashad Hussain. Photo: U.S. State Department.

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