Govt must determine whether religious group engaged in illegal activities

The government bears a heavy responsibility for leaving unaddressed so-called spiritual sales tactics, massive donations and other issues surrounding the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, widely known as the Unification Church. It is important for the government to deal with these issues impartially.

The Cultural Affairs Agency exercised the “right to ask questions” based on the Religious Corporations Law, under which the agency demanded the religious organization to hand over documents on its management rules and books on its assets, income and expenditures, among other items, and the Unification Church submitted materials. The agency reportedly received eight cardboard boxes of documents.

There have been a series of reports on cases involving the Unification Church in which the families of some followers have been impoverished because the followers made huge donations to the organization. Religious corporations enjoy preferential tax treatment, so it is only natural that the government has launched an investigation into whether the organization is properly managed.

The government must scrutinize the answers it has received from the Unification Church and carefully determine if there are any suspicions of legal violations. At the same time, the government should conduct interviews with former followers and other parties concerned, and continue to ask questions if they are deemed necessary.

The right to ask questions was exercised with an eye on seeking a court order to dissolve the religious organization. “The government will determine if the next step should be taken after confirming if activities were malicious and organized and how long they continued,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said at a Diet session.

The Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, but unscrupulous acts by religious corporations should never be tolerated.

The government has not disclosed the content of the questions it posed and the answers it received from the Unification Church. This is probably because the government wants to take a cautious stance in its investigation. If the exchanges between the two sides are not released, however, it will be difficult for the government to convince the public when it makes a decision on whether to seek a court order to dissolve the organization. The government should unveil the questions and answers at the appropriate time.

It is also hard to overlook the many adoptions that were arranged among Unification Church followers. This issue has been examined by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry and the Tokyo metropolitan government.

According to the Unification Church, 745 adoptions have been arranged since 1981, of which 31 were concluded after April 2018, when it became mandatory under the law for adoption mediation agencies to obtain local government approval.

The Unification Church has not obtained approval to operate as an adoption mediation agency. Its activities may have violated the law if they were conducted systematically. While admitting that it required followers who adopted children to submit applications, the religious organization has reportedly denied that it mediated those adoptions.

According to accounts by former followers and the Unification Church’s documents, adoptions were arranged based on religious reasons, described by the organization as, for example, “God’s wish that a child be adopted by a family with no children.” It is clear that these arrangements disrespected the human rights of the adopted children.

How were so many adoptions arranged? Administrative bodies must quickly uncover what actually happened.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 10, 2022)