Bitter Winter, a magazine of the Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR), has been closely following the Japanese government’s investigation of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, formerly known as the Unification Church and The European Times reproduced their latest statement that speaks of the dangerous approach by the Japanese government against religious freedom at large. This investigation began after the assassination of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in July 2022. The magazine, known for its focus on religious liberty and human rights, has started publishing a booklet that explains why the Japanese government has no legal basis to file for the dissolution of the Family Federation.
Dr. Massimo Introvigne, an Italian sociologist and the editor-in-chief of Bitter Winter, has expressed his concern over the situation, calling it the worst current religious liberty crisis in a democratic country. He also mentioned that this crisis is severely tarnishing the international image of Japan, a country he deeply respects.
International lawyer Tatsuki Nakayama, who specializes in legal integrity issues, has written a booklet titled “Dear Prime Minister Fumio Kishida: No Justification for the Government to Request Dissolution of the Family Federation,” in which he argues that the Japanese government is not following the 1951 Religious Corporations Act and appears to be practicing politics instead.
No Legal Basis for Dissolution
Mr. Nakayama points out that the strict, legal reasons for the dissolution of a religious corporation include proof that it is “obviously” antisocial and commits criminal acts under the Penal Code. Additionally, there must be criminal activities organized by the leadership that are “malicious” and “continuous”.
According to Mr. Nakayama, the Family Federation has not engaged in any criminal behaviors, and individual believers’ actions cannot be used to dissolve an entire religious organization. He also mentions that the issue of large donations, which some individuals used undue pressure to persuade people to make for spiritual benefit, was addressed in 2009 when the Family Federation issued a Declaration of Compliance to fully reform its fundraising activities. Since then, there have been only four donation-complaint cases that went to court (three were settled, and one went to judgment), and in the last seven years, there has not been a single case brought to court against the Family Federation.
No “Dissolution” for Other Religious Groups that Committed Crimes
Mr. Nakayama’s research shows that at least eight other religious organizations, in which leaders and followers raped, beat, and even killed people, have not faced dissolution by the government. This raises questions about the government’s selective approach to religious organizations and its potential violation of the freedom of religion under the Constitution.
Other independent investigators like the UN ECOSOC accredited NGO Coordination of Associations and People Freedom of Conscience (CAP LC) have written that the accusatory focus on the Family Federation in Japan is misdirected. (See CAP-LC links below.)