Anti-Family Federation minister central in seeking court order
Several Japanese papers reported 12th October that the Japanese authorities will seek a court order to dissolve the Family Federation. If the court rules as the government wishes, the Family Federation would lose its religious corporation status. It is expected that the Tokyo District Court will receive the court order already on Friday 13th October. Although the district court will reach a verdict within months, the entire legal process could last for several years.
The Japan Times reports 12th October that members of the Family Federation made a last minute appeal to the authorities by submitting signatures from 53,499 members urging the Japanese leadership not to go for a dissolution order. The paper quotes a statement from the petitioners,
“If an actual order is issued (by the court), all assets, including real estate such as church worship facilities and training centers, will be confiscated and liquidated, resulting in a significant limitation on the freedom of religious activities for followers.”
Journalist Makoto Fukatsu wrote in the Mainichi Shimbun, Japan’s oldest paper and one of its largest, on 11th October that
“from the perspective of ensuring the legitimacy of the request, the ministry would like to proceed with the procedure after obtaining the approval of the council members [Council of Religious Corporations].”
And the ministry did consult with the council before making its decision. But not everyone on the council agreed that the request to the court is legitimate. In another article the same day, the Mainichi published a statement by one of the members of the Council of Religious Corporations, who expressed his concern that purely political motives may well be behind the current process initiated by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. The council member points out, “the dissolution order is a ‘death sentence’ against a religious corporation, and the request for dissolution should follow a careful procedure.”
He emphasized that political intentions could be involved, saying,
“We do not want to be influenced by the political agenda. Politics tries to use what it can”
Mainichi explains that the obvious reason for Kishida’s actions against the Family Federation is that the government is hoping that the dissolution request will lead to an increase in support.
Many are in fact wondering why Prime Minister Kishida is in a hurry to get the dissolution order. Little has been written about that in the Japanese media. One who has made a good analysis of the situation, is Kazuhiro Aoyama, political journalist and part-time lecturer at the private distance learning university Seisa. In an article in the weekly business and finance magazine Toyo Keizai (Oriental Economist) 17th October 2022, he asks the question,
“Why did Prime Minister Kishida, who remained cautious about the dissolution order from the viewpoint of ‘freedom of religion’, change his policy in a hurry?”
The answer, according to Aoyama, is connected to one leading politician within the Kishida administration, Taro Kono, Minister for Digital Transformation and Minister for Consumer Affairs and Food Safety since August 2022, just after the Abe assassination. Aoyama explains,
“On August 8, at his first press conference since taking office as minister, Kono announced the establishment of a study group on the issue of the former Unification Church in the Consumer Affairs Agency. Two days after the Cabinet reshuffle, it was a lightning-fast move without instructions from Prime Minister Kishida.”
The Toyo Keizai article points out that Kishida considered Kono a key player to win over public opinion in the aftermath of the terror attack on Shinzo Abe. But Prime Minister Kishida “had concerns about his arbitrary and exclusive actions. When Prime Minister Kishida heard about the launch of the study group, he asked the people around Kono if they were okay with it.”
One worrying point for Kishida and members of the Consumer Affairs Agency, was the fact that Kono appointed Masaki Kito, an activist radical leftwing lawyer who had been campaigning against the Family Federation / Unification Church since a long time. But Taro Kono insisted on Kito’s inclusion in the agency and did not want to reconsider it when faced with criticism.
Although Aoyama does not mention it, it turns out that Kito and Kono have a long history together. Taro Kono himself, along with his father Yohei Kono, a leading LDP politician for many years, and leftwing Masaki Kito – all friendly towards China – were vehemently fighting the espionage prevention bill that Abe and other LDP politicians had tried to introduce. An organization founded by Sun Myung Moon called Victory over communism (VOC) was actively supporting the introduction of the anti-espionage legislation. Since then, Kono has had a rather cold relationship to the Family Federation.
Taro Kono is a contender for the LDP leadership, but is by many considered a political maverick, even eccentric.
“Kishida Follows Anti-Family Federation Minister” – text: Knut Holdhus
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