Kishida in desperate collaboration with enemies, singling out religion, before expected snap election
2nd October 2023 – Published as an article in the Japanese newspaper Sekai Nippo. Republished with permission. Translated from Japanese. Original article
From criticism of “contact” to dissolution request – Former Unification Church
by Nobuo Kubota, 2nd October 2023
Policy of Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology: Religious Council to be consulted soon
The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), which has been investigating the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (formerly the Unification Church) by exercising its right to ask questions, has decided to request the Tokyo District Court for an order to dissolve the religious organisation based on the Religious Corporations Law. An interview with government officials revealed on 30th September that the Ministry will consult the Council of Religious Corporations on 12th October to make a decision.
The problem of the organisation came to light again after the shooting of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. “Second generation religious believers” whose parents are believers, and donors have called for its dissolution.
Article 81 of the Religious Corporations Law stipulates that the court may order the dissolution of a religious organisation at the request of the competent authority, interested party, or prosecutor if there is “an act that violates laws and regulations and is clearly recognized as seriously harming the public welfare” or “an act that significantly deviates from the purpose of a religious organization.”
In the wake of the 1995 Aum Shinrikyo subway sarin incident, the law was amended to create the “right to collect reports and ask questions” that can be exercised if there is suspicion that the requirements are met.
In November last year, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) exercised its right to ask questions for the first time, citing a total of 22 civil judgments that had recognized unlawful acts and compensation amounting to at least about 1.4 billion yen. So far, the Ministry has asked seven times for documents and reports on more than 500 questions, including organisational management, donations, overseas remittances, court cases, and settlements. At the same time, interviews were also conducted with parties who had made large donations, and with the National Network of Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales (Zenkoku Benren).
Regarding the right to ask questions, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) notified the district court in September to impose a fine for refusing to answer more than 100 questions, or about 20% of the questions.
Is it a “letter of dissociation” before the election?
It was reported that the government plans to request an order to dissolve the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification on 12th October, but Prime Minister Fumio Kishida emphasized at a press conference after the reshuffle of the Cabinet on 13th September, “I will make a final decision.” Although he stated that he would make a decision “based on the law while listening to the opinions of the Council of Religious Corporations”, the impression that a decision has already been made, cannot be dispelled, as NHK [Japan’s state-owned public broadcasting organization] and other major media reported that the dissolution would be requested on 30th September.
A supplementary election for the House of Representatives (the Lower House) will be announced on 5th October, and the voting will take place on the 22nd. In addition, an extraordinary Diet session is scheduled to be convened on the 20th, raising the possibility of a snap general election for the House of Representatives in mid-autumn.
After the shooting incident of former Prime Minister Abe in July of last year, criticism of “contact” with a religious organisation and a related group with an anti-communist agenda became heated. The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) released an investigation report and declared a “break” with the religious organisation and the related group.
This is thought to be due to a decline in approval ratings following the cabinet reshuffle in August last year. Under pressure to sign a “letter of dissociation” from the religious organisation, the LDP collaborated with the National Network of Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales (Zenkoku Benren), which has always been strongly anti-LDP and has close ties with the former Socialist Party and the Communist Party. It can be said that the LDP moved forward with the request for the dissolution of the religious organisation in order to obtain a “purification effect” for the next national election.
As a result, in a parliamentary reply, the Prime Minister had overnight changed the interpretation of the Religious Corporations Law. It had previously been interpreted by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology to mean that the religious organisation was “not subject to a request for a dissolution order”.
The Religious Affairs Division of the Agency for Cultural Affairs also changed the right to ask non-investigative questions. The government unilaterally expanded its political power over religion by increasing the number of staff transferred from other agencies by five to seven times. There are concerns that this will have a ripple effect on other religious groups facing civil lawsuits in the future.
On the other hand, it can be said that the religious organisation has been slow to deal with the suffering caused to victims and former believers. Last year, the religious organisation set up a reform task force and held a press conference, but according to public opinion this was not widely understood.
If a dissolution order is filed with the Tokyo District Court, a decision will be made after hearing the arguments of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, the competent authority, and the religious organisation. It is expected that it will take about six months for the decision to be finalized in the district court, and about three years for it to be finalized in the Supreme Court, after an appeal.
When the dissolution is finalized, the representative director and responsible officer of the religious corporation will resign. A liquidator appointed by the court will liquidate the claims and debts based on the assets of the corporation in accordance with the procedures of the Religious Corporations Law. In some cases, the liquidation process leads to bankruptcy proceedings, while in other cases there is a surplus of assets, and the remaining assets are disposed of. (Nobuo Kubota)
Featured image above: Left: Masaki Kito, one of the main activist lawyers in National Network of Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales. Photo: Screenshot / Bitter Winter. Right: Prime Minister Fumio Kishida 16th April 2023 at a press conference at the Prime Minister’s Residential Quarters regarding the explosion incident (attack) during his election speech. Photo: 首相官邸ホームページ / Wikimedia Commons. License: CC Attr 4.0 Int. Cropped
“Kishida Singling Out Religion to Win Election” – text: Nobuo Kubota
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