News and Insights

Small Clique Schemingly Changed Law Overnight

Hiroyuki Konishi

Tokyo paper reveals how small clique around Kishida overnight changed interpretation of law crucial to religious freedom

Sekai Nippo on LDP pressuring council
Logo of the Sekai Nippo

Tokyo, 5th July 2024 – Published as the fifth 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

Changing of rules overnight undermines the foundation of the rule of law

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

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

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida made an announcement on 17th October 2022 that he would use the right to question the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (formerly known as the Unification Church).  This was an act against the conventional interpretation of the law, and it was subjected to attacks from the opposition parties at the House of Representatives Budget Committee the following day (18th October).

Akira Nagatsuma influenced small clique
Akira Nagatsuma 8th June 2010. Photo: 首相官邸ホームページ / Wikimedia Commons. License: CC Attr 4.0 Int. Cropped

Akira Nagatsuma (長妻昭), a member of the Constitutional Democratic Party (CDP), persistently urged Prime Minister Kishida to reconsider his interpretation of the dissolution requirements for religious corporations. The requirements are in line with the 1995 Tokyo High Court decision (confirmed by the Supreme Court in 1996). Nagatsuma argued against Prime Minister Kishida’s assertion that “acts that are unlawful according to the Civil Code are not included” in the prohibitions and directives specified by criminal law and other established regulations, as indicated by Tokyo High Court. Nagatsuma said,

“As for the main body of the former Unification Church, no final judgment has established criminal responsibility. […] As the director of the Agency for Cultural Affairs has consistently stated, unless the government changes its interpretation, a dissolution request can never be made.”

Hiroyuki Konishi
Hiroyuki Konishi. Photo (2014): Screenshot from J-CAST / Wikimedia Commons. License: CC Attr 3.0 Unp. Cropped

On that day, the Prime Minister stuck to the position that had been decided in the Cabinet meeting on 14th October. However, at the beginning of the House of Councillors Budget Committee session on the 19th, in response to a question from Hiroyuki Konishi (小西洋之) of the Constitutional Democratic Party (CDP), he stated, “Having taken into account the discussions from yesterday, the government, had the relevant ministries gather again and has revised the government’s stance.” Then he made the following declaration,

“If it becomes clear that acts are organized, malicious, and continuous, and if they are deemed to meet the requirements of the Religious Corporations Act, wrongful acts (torts) under the Civil Code can also be included.”

The interpretation of a law so important for religious freedom, about the dissolution requirements for religious corporations, was changed 180 degrees overnight. Although Representative Konishi remarked that “this is too much of a change in such a short time,” he did not pursue the matter any further.

There was an even more serious issue lurking behind this “overnight change of policy” commotion. On 22nd August 2023, Representative Konishi, to whom the Prime Minister first communicated the change in interpretation, revealed the behind-the-scenes details of this change on YouTube. Konishi said,

“The day before (18th Oct.), I had contacted the Prime Minister’s Office, advising them to retract the interpretation. I even gave them the reasons for doing so and suggested they should say that the entire Kishida administration had re-discussed the matter. I promised not to pursue that part further if they did so. Prime Minister Kishida said exactly that. However, this is a lie.”

Eito Suzuki
Eito Suzuki, born as Kiyofumi Tanaka. Photo: Mikkabie / Wikimedia Commons. License: CC ASA 4.0 Int. Cropped

This is how Konishi bragged to his associate Eito Suzuki (鈴木エイト) [a “journalist” campaigning fanatically against the Family Federation] that “the prime minister has changed his interpretation according to my instructions.” So it is not entirely reliable.

However, the Prime Minister’s schedule on the 19th Oct. records a meeting with Konishi just before the Budget Committee session of the House of Councillors. It was unusual for him to meet and exchange words with an opposition member who asked a question just before such a session. And indeed, Konishi did not pursue the point he himself had declared a lie – that “the entire government had discussed’ the matter.” There is a strong suspicion that the overnight change was pushed through due to collusion between the government and the opposition.

Satoshi Hamada questions on awful abuse
Satoshi Hamada asking questions in the Japanese Parliament 13th May 2024. Photo: Screenshot from video recording.

The government has remained tight-lipped about the participants in the meeting where the Cabinet decision was overturned. On 31st January of this year, Satoshi Hamada (浜田聡議), a member of the NHK Party, asked in a written inquiry about the assignment and positions of the participants in the meeting.

The government only admitted that the meeting was not a Cabinet meeting, but stated, “We would like to refrain from answering questions about the details of the government’s internal deliberation process.” The names of the participants were not disclosed. Furthermore, the decisions (interpretation changes) made at this meeting have not been subsequently ratified by the Cabinet. There is a strong suspicion that this significant interpretation change was decided by a very small number of close aides in an unofficial gathering.

Masaru Wakasa, lawyer and politician. Photo (2013): Ogiyoshisan / Wikimedia Commons. License: CC Attr 3.0 Unp. Cropped

At a symposium held in Tokyo on 18th June this year, Masaru Wakasa (若狭勝), a former senior prosecutor at the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office and a former member of the House of Representatives, who is now a lawyer, strongly warned,

“The biggest issue in requesting a dissolution order against the Family Federation is the lack of fairness. Changing the interpretation and application of the law hastily within a day, and then requesting a dissolution order, is going to undermine the foundation of a nation governed by laws.”

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

Featured image above: Hiroyuki Konishi’s statement 22nd August 2023. Photo (March 2020): Noriko Ishigaki (石垣のりこ) / Wikimedia Commons. License: CC Attr 3.0 Unp. Cropped

Related to small clique schemingly changed the lawKishida Follows Anti-Family Federation Minister

Also related to small clique schemingly changed the law: Militant Lawyers Dictate Government Policy

More, related to small clique schemingly changed the law: Collusion to Rob Minority of Its Rights

And more, related to small clique schemingly changed the law: State and Media Creating “Today’s Non-Citizens”

Still more, related to small clique schemingly changed the law: Malicious One-Sided Government Source Selection

Yet more, related to small clique schemingly changed the law: Kishida’s Self-Defeating Populist Decisions

And still more, related to small clique schemingly changed the law: Japan Urged to Make U-Turn

And yet more, related to small clique schemingly changed the law: Dangerous Precedent to Crush Religions

And even more, related to small clique schemingly changed the law: Tendentious Reporting by New York Times

Yet more, related to small clique schemingly changed the law: Inhuman Government-Supported Mass Deprogramming

Still more, related to small clique schemingly changed the law: Japan Criticized for Glaring Rights Violations

Even more, related to small clique schemingly changed the law: Japan Following the Way of China

And still more, related to small clique schemingly changed the law: 12 Religious Freedom NGOs Denouncing Japan

And even more, related to small clique schemingly changed the law: Conference on Religious Freedom Violations

Still more, related to small clique schemingly changed the law: Japan: Threat to Religious Freedom

Even more, related to small clique schemingly changed the law: Call to End Witch Hunt

More, related to small clique schemingly changed the law: Government’s Foul Play Pointed Out

Categories

Send us a message

Post Form