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Obvious Inconsistency Ignored by Shaky Kishida

shaky Kishida

Japanese newspaper exposes how shaky Kishida went ahead with his demonstration of power against minority religion in spite of glaring inconsistencies

Sekai Nippo on LDP pressuring council
Logo of the Sekai Nippo

Tokyo, 4th July 2024 – Published as the fourth article in a series in the Japanese newspaper Sekai Nippo. Republished with permission. Translated from Japanese. Original article

Series: Freedom of Religion Under Threat – The Kishida Administration’s Reckless Actions

The lack of consistency when declaring the use of the “right to question”

by the Religious Freedom Investigative Team of the editorial department of Sekai Nippo

See the first article, second article, third article, fifth article, sixth article, seventh article, eighth article, ninth article, tenth article

On 17th October 2022, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced during a House of Representatives Budget Committee session that according to the Religious Corporations Act the government for the first time would use its right to collect reports from and ask questions to the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification.

This announcement coincided with the release of a report by the “Investigative Committee for Measures Against Malicious Business Practices, such as Spiritual Sales”, established by Consumer Affairs Minister Taro Kono at the Consumer Affairs Agency, which recommended the necessity of using the right to question the Family Federation.

Keiko Nagaoka
Keiko Nagaoka, government minister for education, culture, sports, science and technology (MEXT) 2022-2023. Photo (May 2023): U.S. Department of State. Public domain image. Cropped

The Prime Minister had previously instructed Keiko Nagaoka (永岡桂子), Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology to proceed with the necessary procedures, expressing his determination by stating, We must thoroughly advance the fact-finding and clarification of the actual situation by using the right to ask questions.

Despite the Cabinet’s declaration on 10th August 2022 and the Liberal Democratic Party‘s announcement on 31st August to sever ties with the Family Federation, the Cabinet’s approval rating continued to decline. This necessitated special measures to turn the situation around. Using the right to question the organization was likely such a measure. The fact that Consumer Affairs Minister Kono during the 7th meeting of the Consumer Affairs Agency’s investigative committee on 13th October 2022 specified the release date of the report as Monday morning (the 17th) suggests that there was a meeting in advance.

However, it appears that the government had not prepared sufficiently.

Hiroyuki Konishi
Hiroyuki Konishi (小西洋之). Photo: Sekai Nippo

On 14th August, the Prime Minister responded to a question from Hiroyuki Konishi (小西洋之), a member of the Constitutional Democratic Party in the House of Councillors. The official response, which was approved by the Cabinet, states that based on their interpretation, the Family Federation does not fall under the provisions for issuing a dissolution order as stated in article 81, paragraph 1, items 1 and 2 of the Religious Corporations Act.

Specifically, the government’s opinion, which was endorsed by all Cabinet ministers, concluded that the Family Federation did not warrant a dissolution order. This conclusion was based on the interpretation set forth by a Tokyo High Court decision in 1995, which outlined the following criteria:

  1. Acts by representative officers of a religious corporation using assets and organizational resources accumulated under the corporation’s name.
  2. Acts that, in light of social conventions, can be considered acts of the religious corporation.
  3. Acts that clearly violate prohibitions or directives defined by laws such as the Penal Code and significantly harm public welfare.

Taking these interpretations into account, the government determined that the Family Federation did not meet the requirements for a dissolution order request.

The right to question under the Religious Corporations Act (Article 78-2) is originally intended to be exercised when there is a suspicion that grounds for a dissolution order, etc., may apply, in accordance with the provisions of the Religious Corporations Act. Since guaranteeing freedom of religion is a fundamental premise, the requirements for exercising this authority are strictly regulated.

Kihei Maekawa
Kihei Maekawa, Vice-Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, attending a meeting at the Central Government Building No.7 in Chiyoda Ward, Tōkyō Metropolis on 7th June 2016. Photo: 文部科学省ホームページ / Wikimedia Commons. License: CC Attr 4.0 Int. Cropped

Kihei Maekawa (前川喜平), former Vice Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, who was involved in the amendment of the law to add the right to question, also stated that the right to question cannot be used unless the competent authority (the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology) recognizes a suspicion that certain actions of the Family Federation may constitute grounds for a dissolution order. He made this remark during an opposition party hearing in the Diet on 25th October 2010.

By that standard, it is a complete inconsistency for the Prime Minister to announce the use of the right to question the same religious organization just three days after the Cabinet decided that the organization does not qualify for dissolution. Furthermore, the Prime Minister provided only two pieces of evidence:

1) civil court cases in 2016 and 2017 that recognized the organizational liability of the corporation itself for unlawful acts, and

2) over 1,700 consultations received by the government’s joint telephone counseling service from 5th to 30th September, which were then referred to relevant agencies including the Legal Affairs Bureau and the police.

This falls far short of meeting the strict conditions set by the Tokyo High Court decision.

As Prime Minister Kishida announced during the Budget Committee, it appears that he intended to use the right to question as a means of gathering evidence. However, this approach risks plunging the government into significant confusion. The inconsistency was pointed out by the media, leaving Keiko Nagaoka (永岡桂子), Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology struggling in her response, saying, There are various things that are indeed difficult to discuss, and I apologize.

Developments concerning the request to dissolve the Family Federation

2022

  • 8th July: Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is shot and killed during a campaign speech for the House of Councillors election. A Nara Prefectural Police official leaks that the shooter’s motive was resentment towards the Family Federation.
  • 10th August: The second Fumio Kishida Cabinet is inaugurated, announcing a review of its relationship with the organization.
  • 18th August: A meeting of “Liaison Council of Relevant Ministries and Agencies on the ‘Former Unification Church’ issue” is held (Ministry of Justice).
  • 29th August: “Investigative Committe (Study Group) on Measures Against Malicious Business Practices such as Spiritual Sales” convenes (Consumer Affairs Agency).
  • 31st August: Prime Minister Kishida declares, as LDP president, that the party will sever ties with the organization.
  • 6th October: Prime Minister Kishida states in the Diet that careful judgment is necessary regarding the dissolution order request.
  • 11th October: National Network of Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales requests that the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology files for a dissolution order.
  • 14th October: The Cabinet decides on a response stating that the organization does not meet the criteria for dissolution.
  • 17th October: The Consumer Affairs Agency’s committee recommends the use of the right to question; the Prime Minister instructs the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology to use this right.
  • 19th October: The Prime Minister revises his statement, suggesting that wrongful acts (torts) under civil law could also be included in the criteria for a dissolution request.
  • 8th November: The Agency for Cultural Affairs’ expert meeting finalizes the criteria for using the right to question.
  • 22nd November: The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology uses its right to question for the first time (with the organization’s response due on 9th December). The right to question is used seven times in total.

2023

  • 6th September: The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology decides to impose a fine due to over 100 unanswered questions.
  • 7th September: The Ministry notifies the Tokyo District Court of the fine.
  • 12th October: The Ministry holds a meeting of the Religious Juridical Persons Council to discuss the dissolution order request.
  • 13th October: The Ministry files for a dissolution order with the Tokyo District Court.

See the first article, second article, third article, fifth article, sixth article, seventh article, eighth article, ninth article, tenth article

Featured image above: Fumio Kishida deliverin a speech at the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (COP26) 2nd Nov. 2021. Photo: 首相官邸ホームページ / Wikimedia Commons. License: CC Attr 4.0 Int. Cropped

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