Hostile lawyers inflating figures and exploiting people’s fear of the unknown
Tokyo, 18th December 2023 – published as an article in the Japanese newspaper Sekai Nippo. Republished with permission. Translated from Japanese. Original article
No need for asset preservation provisions – Questionable request for dissolution of the Family Federation
Part 3 of interview with international lawyer Tatsuki Nakayama (中山達樹)
Unsubstantiated claims by National Network of Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales (NNLASS)
by the Sekai Nippo editorial department (Interviewer: Takahide Ishii (石井孝秀) and Yoshiyuki Iwaki (岩城喜之)
– Asset preservation has been a topic of discussion in the parliament, primarily among the opposition parties. How do you perceive this?
When constructing laws, the concepts of “necessity” and “acceptability” are considered. Necessity refers to the literal requirement that a law addresses specific social circumstances. On the other hand, acceptability involves balancing considerations such as human rights protection and compatibility with other existing legal provisions.
There is a lot of debate about whether the asset preservation bill is “acceptable” from the perspective of religious freedom, but I would rather put the spotlight on the issue of “necessity”. The fundamental question is whether there is a need for this bill in the first place. Organizations such as National Network of Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales (全国霊感商法対策弁護士連絡会 – Zenkoku Benren) emphasize that it is necessary because there is a large amount of “damage”, but most of the “damage” is “damage” without evidence. Recently, a 94-year-old former female believer in Yokkaichi City, Mie prefecture, withdrew a lawsuit where she demanded more than 100 million yen.
Over the past year, the religious organization announced that it voluntarily refunded a total of approximately 4 billion yen. On the other hand, despite the gathering of numerous lawyers from National Network of Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales, they have not been able to compile any evidence. In the end, the lawsuit filed in Mie prefecture was also withdrawn. In the eyes of a lawyer, it is tantamount to saying there were no damages or victims to speak of. Therefore, it becomes evident just how inflated the damages of 100 billion yen claimed by the National Network of Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales truly are.
In other words, one might question whether there was any “necessity” to create the law of asset preservation in the first place. Both the ruling and opposition parties were working hard to draft a bill to preserve assets, but in the end, this coincided with the aims of the National Network of Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales to attack the religious organization in an activist manner, and the politicians’ desire to create a track record that would be popular with the public. This appears to be a “battle of appeal” between the two sides to appeal to the public.
In 2018, the Consumer Contract Act was amended, and a so-called “spiritual sales law” was also incorporated into it. The network of lawyers played a significant role in this amendment as well. However, even with these changes, we don’t hear stories of newly discovered “victims” being compensated. The same seems to apply to the victim relief law from last year.
From the perspective of the National Network of Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales, their goal seems to be to strongly implant the impression in society that the religious organization is “evil”, all while ensuring that this impression persists until the dissolution of the organization.
– The religious organization is undergoing reforms, but what will be needed in the future?
When considering reforms, two patterns must be taken into account. The first is reform during the period when the dissolution request is being examined in court. The second is reform after the request has been rejected, and the religious organization is not dissolved.
If the dissolution request is granted, that’s the end of it. Therefore, let’s first consider reforms during the period until the court’s verdict is delivered. As in the symposium of the Second Generation Association, it is important to appeal to the public the reality of not being mind-controlled. If the judges knew the real picture, they would realize that this is not an organization that deserves to be disbanded.
If the organization manages to overcome the dissolution, the next crucial step would be to facilitate dialogue. Possibilities include intergenerational conversations between first-generation and second-generation members, as well as dialogue between believers and individuals outside the organization. It’s essential to balance the extreme image that the public holds of the organization with the real-life perspective of a believer as an ordinary citizen.
In the past, Scientology was labeled as a “cult” and encountered significant opposition in the United States, yet it managed to survive. The key to its survival lay in employing a strategic approach: utilizing the media to portray the authentic nature of the religious organization and filling in the gaps in the general public’s perception, where they were often viewed as mysterious or a poorly understood group.
The fear of the unknown is great. The work of filling the gaps in the public perception of the Family Federation was monopolized by the National Network of Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales and others. The public perceived the Family Federation as a “frightening religious organization that we don’t know much about.”
Abduction and confinement for the purpose of forced renunciation of faith is another such gap. Filling it – depending on how it is done – could lead to exposing the hypocrisy of the side against the Unification Church.
Featured image above: The crucifixion of the 26 Catholic martyrs of Nagasaki, Japan 5th Feb. 1597. A painting in the franciscan convent of the Lady of the Snows in Prague. Photo: Pavel Vnenk. License: CC ASA 4.0 Int. Cropped
Tatsuki Nakayama (中山達樹) was born in Kanagawa Prefecture (神奈川県) in 1974. He graduated from the University of Tokyo’s Faculty of Law. In 2005, he became a registered lawyer and graduated from the National University of Singapore Law School in 2010. After working as an international lawyer at a law firm in Singapore, he established Nakayama International Law Office in 2015. In 2016, he became a certified fraud examiner and graduated from the master course of Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. His notable works include “Global Governance Compliance” and others.
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