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The Government’s Hostile Investigative Committee

Investigative committee

Tokyo paper exposes how the Kishida administration’s investigative committee was led in authoritarian style by hostile “experts” appointed by hostile minister

Sekai Nippo on LDP pressuring council
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Tokyo, 3rd July 2024 – Published as the third 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

Abuse of authority by Kono, Minister of Consumer Affairs

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

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

Kasumigaseki
From Kasumigaseki, the area of Tokyo where much of the state bureaucracy is located. Photo (2010): 江戸村のとくぞう / Wikimedia Commons. License: CC ASA 4.0 Int

The second reshuffled Kishida cabinet, which severed ties with the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, established a “Liaison Council of Relevant Ministries and Agencies on the ‘Former Unification Church’ issue”. It was chaired by the Minister of Justice. On 18th August 2022, the first meeting was held. The purpose was for the government to collaborate on providing relief to “victims” of issues related to religious groups, but a particular religious organization was specifically targeted, and they intended to have the entire Japanese state bureaucracy (霞が関 – Kasumigaseki) take on the issue.

On the other hand, on 29th August 2022, Taro Kono (河野太郎), who had been appointed as Minister of Consumer Affairs, held the first meeting of the Consumer Agency’s “Investigative Committe (Study Group) on Measures Against Malicious Business Practices such as Spiritual Sales”. In his opening remarks, Kono stated, “While spiritual sales involve the sale of goods, issues related to donations have also been pointed out.” He indicated that donations would also be a subject to consider. He also called for discussions that “in some cases may go beyond the scope of the Consumer Affairs Agency‘s responsibilities.”

“Acts of donating” mentioned by Taro Kono are fundamentally considered religious acts. To raise this as a problem and impose restrictions on it carries the risk of infringing upon religious freedom. Moreover, it falls outside the jurisdiction of the Consumer Affairs Agency. When Kono said, “Beyond the scope of the Consumer Affairs Agency’s responsibilities”, it appears he was aware of this point. But Kono’s show of force is a threat to religious freedom.

The composition and operation of the investigative committee also lacked fairness and impartiality. There were eight members, but half of them held an antagonistic stance toward the Family Federation.

Shiori Kanno
Shiori Kanno in 2016. Photo: 首相官邸ホームページ / Wikimedia Commons. License: CC Attr 4.0 Int. Cropped
Masaki Kito
Masaki Kito, one of the hostile lawyers of National Network of Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales (全国霊感商法被害対策弁連) and Nationwide Unification Church Damage Countermeasures Legal Team (全国統一教会被害対策弁護団). Photo: Screenshot / Bitter Winter

The committee included Masaki Kito (紀藤正樹), a lawyer from National Network of Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales (Zenkoku Benren); Kimiaki Nishida (西田公昭), representative director of the Japan Anti-Cult Association; Shiori Kanno (菅野志桜里), a lawyer who has consistently emphasized the need for a dissolution order against the religious organization since the first meeting of the investigative committee; and Naoko Yoshino (芳野直子), Vice-President of Japan Federation of Bar Associations (JFBA), who has issued a critical opinion paper where she criticizes the religious organization and links it to “spiritual sales scams” (霊感商法).

The remaining members were two professors specializing in civil law and two consumer issues experts. It was only natural that Kito and Kanno led the discussions.

Regarding the actual “harm” caused by spiritual sales (霊感商法), which forms the basis of the discussion, the Family Federation claims that since their 2009 compliance declaration, there have been no legal claims seeking damages specifically related to spiritual sales.

In contrast, the National Network of Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales (Zenkoku Benren) asserts that “many victims continue to suffer.” However, the materials prepared by the Consumer Agency for the first meeting included legal consultation fees related to spiritual sales (also referred to as 開運商法 – fortune-telling sales), and they were unclassified and included organizations other than the Family Federation.

Without anyone in the investigative committee thoroughly examining this, the discussions concentrated on two points: 1) how to legally regulate donations and offerings, and 2) how to prevent and remedy “illegal financial exploitation by cult-like groups” (including the request for a court order to dissolve the religious organization). During this time, there was no attempt to involve or seek attendance from representatives of the religious organization.

In particular, the fourth meeting, which focused on “Analysis and verification of individual cases”, resembled a trial in absentia. Invited lawyer Masaki Gouro (郷路征記) from National Network of Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales stated,

“To prove that this huge organization, said to have tens of thousands of members, conducted what I consider illegal missionary and indoctrination activities as an organization, […] it is difficult with just the materials we have.”

He suggested that “it is important for the government to actively collect evidence.” In response, Shiori Kanno agreed, saying,

“If that is the case, then it is indeed the government’s turn. They should use the right to ask questions and the right to collect reports under Article 78-2 of the Religious Corporations Act.”

The summary of the discussions from the seven investigative committee meetings was compiled by four people: chairman Shoji Kawakami (河上正二), professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo specializing in civil law; Shuichi Miyashita (宮下修一), professor at Chuo University, and Masaki Kito and Shiori Kanno. The resulting report, dated 17th October 2022, stated,

“Regarding the former Unification Church, given that serious problems have been pointed out which cannot be overlooked by society, it is necessary to exercise the authority to collect reports and ask questions based on Article 78-2 of the Religious Corporations Act, with the request for a dissolution order also in view.”

The investigative committee, whose purpose was to provide relief to victims, exceeded its mandate and even mentioned dissolving the religious organization. Few people realized how authoritarian this was.

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

See also Maverick Minister Lets “3 Foxes in the Henhouse”

Featured image above: On 29th August 2022, Taro Kono, the Minister of Consumer Affairs, speaks at the first meeting of the “Investigative Committe (Study Group) on Measures Against Malicious Business Practices such as Spiritual Sales”, which was published on YouTube. Appearing on the screen is also Masaki Kito, an activist left-wing lawyer and member of the investigative committee (third from the top). Photo: Screenshot / Sekai Nippo

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More, related to hostile investigative committee: Collusion to Rob Minority of Its Rights

And more, related to hostile investigative committee: State and Media Creating “Today’s Non-Citizens”

Still more, related to hostile investigative committee: Malicious One-Sided Government Source Selection

Yet more, related to hostile investigative committee: Kishida’s Self-Defeating Populist Decisions

And still more, related to hostile investigative committee: Japan Urged to Make U-Turn

And yet more, related to hostile investigative committee: Dangerous Precedent to Crush Religions

And even more, related to hostile investigative committee: Tendentious Reporting by New York Times

Yet more, related to hostile investigative committee: Inhuman Government-Supported Mass Deprogramming

Still more, related to hostile investigative committee: Japan Criticized for Glaring Rights Violations

Even more, related to hostile investigative committee: Japan Following the Way of China

And still more, related to hostile investigative committee: 12 Religious Freedom NGOs Denouncing Japan

And even more, related to hostile investigative committee: Conference on Religious Freedom Violations

Still more, related to hostile investigative committee: Japan: Threat to Religious Freedom

Even more, related to hostile investigative committee: Call to End Witch Hunt

More, related to hostile investigative committee: Government’s Foul Play Pointed Out

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