British precedent: Government lost case based on anti-religious source selection
Second of six parts of Seiron report
The Japanese monthly opinion magazine Seiron (正論) published in its December 2023 issue a feature article on the outrageous persecution of the Family Federation (formerly the Unification Church) in Japan. The article by Makiko Takita, well known journalist and editor-in-chief of the magazine, presents a conversation with Rev. Haruhisa Nakagawa (中川晴久), President of Japan Christian Theological Institute and Secretary of Tokyo Christian Theological Institute (東京キリスト教神学研究所), and Professor Tsutomu Nishioka (西岡 力), from the Ethics and Moral Education Foundation, professor at the Institute of Moral Science, Tokyo Christian University.
On 18th January 2024, Bitter Winter, the leading international online magazine on religious freedom and human rights, published the second of six parts of the English version of the original Seiron artcle. (See the whole Bitter Winter article.) Read more on article 1, article 3, article 4, article 5, article 6 in the Bitter Winter series.
In the second part, Rev. Nakagawa describes how the government body Agency for Cultural Affairs (文化庁) has ignored several serious and crucial issues in its request to the Tokyo District Court to issue an order to dissolve the Family Federation.
The Christian leader points out that the information that the government has based its request on, is completely one-sided and not to be trusted. In fact, much of it appears to come from National Network of Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales (全国霊感商法対策弁護士連絡会), a group of activist lawyers, many of them leftwing, who are hostile to the Family Federaton (formerly the Unification Church) and have been campaigning against it for decades.
Rev. Nakagawa explains that the network of lawyers,
“has been using such former believers – who were abducted and forcibly converted [de-converted by faith-breakers] in confinement for many years – to develop court battles in pursuit of the church and its assets.”
In other words, the network of activist lawyers exploited cynically a situation where more than 4,000 members of the Family Federation were kidnapped, held in forcible detention, sometimes for years, and forced to undergo horrendous faith-breaking sessions controlled by professional deprogrammers. If and when a believer would finally agree to abandon his faith, he would be introduced to lawyers who encouraged him often under duress to sue the Family Federation for damages. Rev. Nakagawa describes the situation,
“The Agency for Cultural Affairs used as the basis for the dissolution request 128 of the 231 plaintiffs in the 22 civil lawsuit judgments (increased to 32 at the time of the request). These cases were the ones the Unification Church lost in court. These cases were also often these where the people suing the church had been forced to apostatize through the same kind of abduction and confinement tactics. We believe that this could violate Article 38 of the Constitution, which states, ‘No confession made under compulsion, torture, or intimidation, or after unreasonably long detention or imprisonment, shall be admissible as evidence.’
Hence, it is hard to understand that the government does not see that they may be acting illegally in basing their dissolution request on civil cases largely masterminded by hostile lawyers who support methods like kidnapping, forcible detention, and testifying under duress.
Nakagawa describes how some parents of adult members of the Unification Church were involved in the forced de-conversion of their sons or daughters. The parents were thoroughly instructed by faith-breakers for a period of up to half a year, learning how to carry out the kidnapping, forcible detention, and faith-breaking. Haruhisa Nakagawa says,
“Parents claim they tried to compel their abducted children to leave the church out of love. However, it is important to note that these ‘children’ were adults.”
The Christian leader also mentioned how the forced de-conversion
“damages the parent-child relationship and leaves a big scar. Even if the adult believers say they are happy to have left the group, they may still be tormented by the memory of the moment of abduction and confinement, and a rift between parent and child may eventually develop, and the wound may never heal.”
Rev. Nakagawa also explained that such faith-breaking hardly exists in other nations.
“However, in Japan, deprogramming has continued. This is because the National Federation of Bar Associations [short for National Network of Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales] has a well-established system of inducing deprogrammed believers to file lawsuits.”
Nakagawa goes into this in further details,
“On the surface, the lawyers and former believers say, ‘We were deceived by the Unification Church,’ and ‘The Unification Church is reprehensible,’ but behind the scenes, they pursue the Unification Church as plaintiffs in court by committing serious human rights violations and trampling on the dignity of individuals. But the system behind the scenes is hidden from the public, and the fact that even Christian pastors and lay leaders have been involved in these human rights violations is still not mentioned at all.”
The Christian leader also points out that he is astonished that the network of hostile lawyers has been asked to take part in the government’s investigation prior to requesting the dissolution order.
He emphasizes that
“there is already a precedent in the U.K. of an attempt to dissolve a religious corporation through the concerted efforts of an ‘anti-cult’ organization/activists and the government. In 1984, the British government joined forces with anti-cult movements to eliminate the charitable status of the Unification Church, which is equivalent to Japan’s efforts to revoke its status as a religious corporation.
The British government’s investigation relied almost entirely on the anti-cult groups, and deprogramming experts gathered testimonies from ex-members who had been forced to apostatize. But much of this information was exaggerated or disproven, and eventually the British government lost in court and had to pay the Unification Church $6 million, or about 850 million Japanese yen.”
Featured image above: Some of Fumio Kishida’s cabinet on 13th September 2023. Kishida on the left and Taro Kono on the right. Kono, Minister for Digital Transformation and Minister for Consumer Affairs and Food Safety, is known to have lobbied Kishida to get the Family Federation investigated. In August 2022 Kono appointed Masaki Kito as expert advisor in a study group Kono established in the Consumer Affairs Agency for the issue of the Family Federation. Kito is an activist radical leftwing lawyer who has been campaigning against the Family Federation / Unification Church for decades. Photo: 首相官邸ホームページ / Wikimedia Commons. License: CC Attr 4.0 Int. Cropped
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