Leftwing smear campaign exploits Abe assassination to attack Unificaton Church
Religious freedom is being attacked all over the world, especially in totalitarian states like China. But there is another worrying trend. In democratic nations, we see leftwing smear campaigns against religious minorities. Groups well to the left of the political spectrum are campaigning to curb the rights of religious organisations.
We see this clearly in Japan. There, an activist group founded by members of the Communist and Socialist Parties and aided by left-leaning journalists and editors, have managed to gain broad support in their decades-long fight to stop the amazing growth of the Family Federation, formerly the Unification Church. This has happened especially after the assassination of former prime minister Shinzo Abe on 8th July last year.
The Washington Times writes,
“The assassination’s aftermath has emboldened fringe Japanese communists to try to smear and discredit Abe’s long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party over its links to the Unification Church, said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who warned this week that Tokyo now finds itself in a ‘political fight about an ideology of communism, which wants to destroy its major competitor’ to ‘get control of Japan.’
‘This is a huge problem,’ Mr. Gingrich told an audience at the International Religious Freedom Summit 2023, referring to the pressure campaign in Japan against members of the Unification Church. Unification Church officials and members say they have faced death threats and other forms of harassment in the wake of Abe’s death.” (“Religious Freedom under threat; summit highlights actions by China, developments in Japan”, web edition 1st Feb. 2023)
Gingrich called the leftwing smear campaign against the Family Federation “a political fight with huge ramifications for communist China”.
Sam Brownback, former U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, who co-chaired this year’s International Religious Freedom Summit, remarked,
“When a government can take out one church, it can take out every church, every religious institution […]. It’s about a common human right and about preventing a government from stomping on it – even a democracy as well-formed and with as strong a constitution as Japan has.”
The Washington newspaper writes that the Japanese parliament, the Diet, voted last December for a law that makes it a lot harder for religious groups to raise funds. The law blocks the sale of items such as books of great spiritual significance at substantially higher prices than ordinary books. The new legislation also grants extensive rights to donors to religious organisations to claim their money back.
According to the paper, critics of the law maintain that it mainly targets the Family Federation, formerly the Unification Church, and that the legislation was introduced after a long leftwing smear campaign, orchestrated by the Japanese Communist Party. Other critics of the law say that curtailing religious liberty and activities could very well backfire on the politicians responsible for such legislation. But there is a high risk that the new laws might spell trouble for many more and larger religious organisations in Japan.
Text: Knut Holdhus
Featured image above: Newt Gingrich speaking at a dinner sponsored by The Washington Times Foundation and the Universal Peace Federation on 1st Feb. 2023, at the International Religious Freedom Summit 2023. Photo: P. Zöhrer / IMAP.