Bill to prohibit improper solicitations a step toward making victims whole

A bill to prohibit heinous methods of soliciting donations will have great significance in preventing the spread of damage. The ruling and opposition parties should ensure its passage in the current Diet session.

The government has decided on new legislation to prohibit corporations and other organizations from improperly soliciting donations. This comes in response to the problems of spiritual sales tactics and massive donations in connection with the religious group widely known as the Unification Church.

The law will cover acts of inducing people to donate money by making them feel uneasy and bewildered, such as by telling them that they will be cursed by their ancestors. It also will prohibit pressing people to sell their houses or borrow money to obtain funds to donate.

Under the Consumer Contract Law, it is possible to revoke a contract within a certain period for the purchase of expensive pots or other items peddled via spiritual sales that play on people’s anxieties. However, soliciting donations through inappropriate methods has been overlooked.

A consultation hot line set up by the government has received endless inquiries from former followers and their families who have been impoverished by making huge donations. It is only natural that new legislation should regulate the antisocial activities of various groups, including the Unification Church, which is formally known as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification.

A focal point in the discussions of the bill between the ruling and opposition parties was the treatment of donations willingly made by followers who are under mind control. The opposition insisted that such donations be subject to a ban.

However, the government and ruling parties did not accept the opposition’s argument, saying that mind control cannot be defined by law. Instead, the law will require corporations to consider that they “must not suppress free will” when asking for donations.

This is based on the idea under the Civil Code that a lack of consideration increases the possibility of an act being deemed a tort. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida stated in the Diet that the requirement “will make it easier for claims for damages to be recognized.”

This will likely have a deterrent effect when religious and other organizations are soliciting donations.

Although the government has emphasized that it will “provide relief to victims,” past cases involving the Unification Church will not be covered by the new law. This is because a new law cannot be applied retroactively. It is a fact that the government’s inaction has resulted in many victims.

The ruling and opposition parties must put utmost efforts into seeking ways to provide relief for victims.

The new law allows for the revocation of donations made through improper solicitation for a period of up to 10 years. It also allows children and spouses to seek refunds of donations within the scope of child support and other payments they are entitled to receive in the future.

It is difficult for minors to actually bring a suit to court. Such organizations as the Japan Legal Support Center need to take the lead in establishing a system to provide detailed consultation services.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 3, 2022)