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Ministry Not Specifying Which Law Is Broken

Nobuya Fukumoto

Too assured of victory? Japanese government ministry not specifying the laws they claim have been violated. 

English version of statement by Attorney Nobuya Fukumoto, representing the Family Federation (FFWPU) of Japan, at the Tokyo District Court. The statement was made at a press conference after the first day of hearings 22nd February 2024. Published with permission.

Next, I, Nobuya Fukumoto, will speak on behalf of the religious organization as its representative. Today, from 2:00 to 3:00, the first hearing was conducted. As for the content, first was the formal submission of evidence.

Tomihiro Tanaka
Tomihiro Tanaka, here at press conference in Tokyo 7th Nov. 2023. Photo: Screenshot from live transmission by the Family Federation of Japan.

Then, Tomohiro Tanaka, the representative of the religious organisation, read out a statement. You have a paper in front of you (we have handed out the paper), but as mentioned earlier, please refrain from posting photos of it. It’s fine to write down a summary of its contents.

During the hearing, while opinions could be expressed regarding the government’s inquiry, there were no official statements from the government’s side regarding the hearing. Additionally, although the prosecutors could have attended, they were absent.

And then, regarding that statement, within it, I have presented, in the “Memorandum of the first hearing of the request for dissolution of the religious corporation, which I have just handed out, those are my own records. I offer them purely as a reference for your own articles. I hope this is acceptable.

Within it, I submitted displays for the defendant, numbers 7 to 33 in court today. As for what this is, I have provided evidence, but this is all in written form.

This is a paper by a researcher that discusses the process by which the Religious Corporations Law was enacted in 1952, the public interest of religious organizations, and the past of religious oppression by the former Ministry of Justice. The reason for submitting this paper is that it was previously used as a visual aid when the request for the dissolution order was filed.

Masahito Moriyama's ministry not specifying which laws are broken.
Masahito Moriyama, Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. Photo: 文部科学省 / Wikimedia Commons. License: CC Attr 4.0 Int. Cropped

The panel was taken from the press conference of the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology and contains nearly identical content to what was written in that request. So, what do I mean?

Allow me to read from the panel:

“Press Conference of the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology on 12th October 2023.

Religious corporations are legally recognized as public interest corporations. Public interest corporations are distinct from profit-oriented corporations such as companies. The reason religious corporations are considered public interest entities is that religious groups are expected to contribute to society by providing mental stability or spiritual training to the general public through religious activities […].

In light of this, the Unification Church is deemed detrimental to the public interest because it significantly deviates from the purpose of a religious organization. Therefore, according to Article 81, Paragraph 1, Item 2 of the Religious Corporation Act, there are grounds for dissolution.”

What I found puzzling here is related to the reason behind granting religious corporation status to religious organizations. The claim that religious corporation status is conferred based on the public nature of religious groups has been bothering me.

Religious Corporations Act of Japan
Front page of 2018 English version of Religious Corporations Act of Japan.

The reason for my concern is that Article 1 of the Religious Corporation Act does not explicitly state such a provision. It seems that the purpose is solely to grant legal personality to religious organizations and facilitate their religious activities. Therefore, I researched the process of enacting the Religious Corporation Act.

What I found through this investigation, which I presented today, were displays numbered 27 through 33 of Document A. According to these documents, indeed, the former Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (MEXT) had expected and aimed to enhance the public interest nature of religion or religious organizations when drafting the current Religious Corporations Act, enacted in 2014. The draft was written with the intention of expecting and promoting the public and beneficial nature of religion or religious organizations.

However, when the the Civil Information and Education Bureau (CIE) of the General Headquarters (GHQ – the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers. Allied agency responsible for the post-war occupation administration of Japan.) – abbreviated as GHQ/CIE, reviewed this, they expressed disapproval. They stated,

“This is unacceptable. The social status of religious organizations should not be determined by the government. Furthermore, it is questionable whether all religions inherently contribute to the public welfare. Considering the principle of separation of religion and state, the sole purpose of this law should be to grant legal capacity to religious organizations.

Consequently, this led to the formulation of Article 1, Paragraph 1. The claim made by the petitioner (the country) that “religious corporations are granted legal personality based on the public nature of religious activities” turned out to be a malicious falsehood, distorting the truth behind the establishment process of the Religious Corporation Act. Today, in court, I pointed out this lie and asserted that such a claim based on falsehood cannot be accepted as grounds for dissolution under Item 2 of the preceding paragraph.

Another significant issue arose concerning the grounds for dissolution under Item 1.

This (panel) was also used during my press conference in October. Let me clarify it once again.

Pointing out ministry not specifying law: Nobuya Fukumoto and Nobuo Okamura
Representing the Family Federation in Tokyo District Court 22nd February 2024: Nobuya Fukumoto (left) and Nobuo Okamura. Photo: Screenshot from video recording by FFWPU.

The grounds for dissolution under Item 1 state: “Engaging in acts that clearly violate laws and significantly harm the public welfare.” Let’s break down this requirement. The initial condition is “violating laws”. Regarding this, there is no dispute that the term “laws” refers to established legal regulations, including statutory laws.

The Tokyo High Court’s verdict in the Aum Shinrikyo case also clearly states that statutory regulations refer to laws such as the Penal Code. In other words, to claim that someone has violated a law, we must specify which law, which article, or which section they have violated.

MEXT becoming organ of abusive state
Symbol of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) of Japan. Photo: 文部科学省 (MEXT Japan) / Wikimedia Commons. License: CC Attr 4.0 Int

However, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, here (on the panel) it says, “Penalty Case Notification Writ”. And at that time, I had not yet seen the documents for the request for a dissolution order, but they reused (recycled) the part about the penalty case notification here.

It only states that “under Article 81, Paragraph 1, Item 1, legal violations include acts that violate civil discipline and order.” It does not state which specific law and article are being violated. This was exactly the same for the request for dissolution order. In fact, this part of the legal claim was almost entirely copied and pasted from the penalty case document, so the content was the same. Therefore, I submitted a request for clarification on this matter on 24th January of this year.

In fact, before that, there was a document from the petitioner’s side rebutting our first argument in the “Argument Document 1”. Despite our claim that they had not specified the laws, they did not specify them here either. Actually, there is a backstory to this, involving the report submitted as display A23, which is related to an incident last November involving Senator Konishi, who managed to change legal interpretations overnight.

Hiroyuki Konishi
Hiroyuki Konishi in March 2020. Photo: 石垣のりこ / Wikimedia Commons. License: CC Attr 3.0 Unp. Cropped

Back in November of last year, he, Senator Konishi, had already questioned the Cabinet about whether specific laws should be identified, including articles 709 and 715 of the Civil Code, in response to my previous press conference. I was present at this conference. He submitted a letter of inquiry to the Cabinet, urging them to clarify which specific articles were included in the aforementioned provision.

In response to this, what did the government answer? They basically dodged the question, stating that they refrained from answering your inquiry as it could potentially influence the ongoing court proceedings. Essentially, they dodged the question.

I observed this, and if the government chose not to answer because the case was ongoing, then as a party involved in the trial, I, in the midst of the trial, sought in my request for clarification of which specific articles were being referred to. The government responded to this request on 9th February 2024.

The response from the government was consistent with what they asserted in the dissolution order request and the argument document. They claimed that there was no need to provide an answer. However, despite reviewing their documents multiple times, I couldn’t find any specific law and article that they alleged had been violated. So, I asked them. But they didn’t respond.

Today, during the hearing, I raised this issue again with the government. I expressed my uncertainty about their claim, stating that even after examining their argument documents, I still couldn’t determine which law and article they were asserting had been violated.

Civil Code of Japan vol 1
An English exact reproduction of The Civil Code of Japan, vol. 1, 4th edition, first published 1906.

It seems to me that their overall argument is centered around a violation of Civil Code Article 709. I sought clarification by obtaining permission from the court to ask this question. In response, the prosecutor representing the government simply reiterated what was written in their claim document and did not specify any laws.

As a result, when the court reexamined the matter, they stated that illegal acts constitute violations of laws. Well, this has been their stance for a long time; it’s nothing new. So, they continued to refrain from specifying the relevant law and article until the end. I don’t expect them to specify in the future either.

Therefore, I argued to the court that since they failed to specify the legal basis, their argument regarding the lack of legal elements in Item 1 was inappropriate, and the focus of the proceedings should be narrowed down to Item 2 of the preceding paragraph.

Regarding the court’s role, they will proceed with legal judgments and applications. As for the evidence plan, I’ve provided some explanations from my end, but I’ll skip that part for now. Is there anything else you’d like to ask?

Featured image above: Representing the Family Federation in Tokyo District Court 22nd February 2024: Attorney Nobuya Fukumoto. Photo: Screenshot from video recording by FFWPU.

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