Biased reporting on the Unification Church of Japan
In a piece of biased reporting Justin McCurry, East Asia correspondent for the Guardian (London) and the Christian Science Monitor (Boston), covers how the LDP, Japan’s ruling party, does well in key local elections in spite of controversies around the party’s links to the Unification Church. Throughout the article, published in the Guardian 10th April 2023, there is talk of “widespread links”, “connections”, and “ties” between the LDP and the church.
McCurry certainly does his best to make possible links seem like something really negative. In that sense, his piece is one-sided, indeed. He mentions “damaging revelations” about links, “criticism” over links, plummeting support due to links. Of course, he writes for a left-leaning paper, describing what he calls a “conservative” church.
But that does not justify this kind of unfair and biased reporting. The correspondent simply omits to mention important facts, especially where the majority of allegations against the Unification Church comes from.
National Network of Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales is an organization started by extreme leftwing activists from Japan’s Communist Party and Socialist Party. The specific aim of establishing the network was, and still is, to destroy the Unification Church because of its critical view of God-denying, materialistic, totalitarian communist ideology.
As soon as former prime minister Shinzo Abe was assassinated 8th July 2022, the network orchestrated a campaign to blame the church for the murder.
Massimo Introvigne, well-known author and expert on new religious movements, points out in an article 30th Aug. 2022 in the online magazine Bitter Winter,
“In Japan, the Unification Church has old, powerful, and well-organized enemies. They quickly called press conferences and recruited friendly reporters for a campaign aimed at blaming the victims, i.e. Abe and the Unification Church, rather than the perpetrator. They also published lists to name and shame Japanese politicians who had attended events of the UPF and other organizations connected with the Unification Church. They called for them to publicly disassociate themselves from these organizations, and even asked cabinet ministers to resign.”
In the same article, the Italian scholar asks why religious believers, moved by their faith to engage in politics, should not have the same rights and duties as those granted to all other citizens. He writes,
“Excluding those who believe in God from political activism or office in the name of secularism makes them into second class citizens, deprived of their fundamental right of participating in the life and institutions of their country. Not less anti-democratic is excluding members of certain unpopular religions from politics. […] Investigating and denouncing politicians who attend events of the Unification Church and its related organizations, carries with it a simple message. In Japan both the freedom of citizens who happen to be believers, to fully participate as believers in the democratic process, and the freedom of politicians to consult and cooperate with leaders and members of religions of their choice, are at risk.
In fact, some radical voices in the Japanese media ask precisely that politicians should be prevented from cooperating in any way not only with the Unification Church but with any religion.”
Another obvious reason the Guardian article falls into the category of unfair and biased reporting is the use of the derogatory term “Moonies”, both in the headline and in the text. The expression is often used intentionally by leftwing and anti-religious activists in order to denigrate and ridicule the Unification Church and its members. The international news agency Reuters, in its handbook for journalists, says:
“‘Moonie’ is a pejorative term for members of the Unification Church. We should not use it in copy and avoid it when possible in direct quotations.”
Text: Knut Holdhus
Featured image above: From local elections in Japan. The Commmunist Party (Nakano branch) and their Nissan Vanette, Nakano, Tokyo, Japan on 26th May 2018. Photo: Vasconium / Wikimedia Commons. License: CC ASA 2.0 Gen