Japan to revise laws to offer relief for Unification Church victims during current Diet session

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The building of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, widely known as the Unification Church, is seen in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo

Relief for victims of Unification Church activities will be presented in bills to revise relevant laws that the government will submit during the current extraordinary Diet session.

Some followers of the religious group officially known as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification have said they had to make large monetary donations or make exorbitant purchases stemming from so-called spiritual sales tactics.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said at the House of Representatives Budget Committee on Tuesday that the government is preparing for the bills to be submitted to the current Diet session.

“The bills to revise related laws the government is considering will be submitted to the Diet session in succession as soon as their arrangements are finalized,” Kishida stated.

At the same committee on Monday, Kishida expressed his intention to start a probe into the Unification Church within the year, making it the first time the government will use its “right to ask questions” of individuals connected to a religious group under the Religious Corporations Law.

“It’s necessary to facilitate the procedures for the use of the right to ask questions,” Kishida said. “I will have the culture minister swiftly work on the issue.”

Regarding the revision of the relevant laws including the Consumer Contract Law, Kishida stated that the government will “consider expanding the eligibility of the right to revoke contracts and extending the period for exercising the right.”

Kishida directed Keiko Nagaoka, the education, culture, sports, science and technology minister, to conduct an investigation of the Unification Church on Monday because there are court rulings in civil lawsuits in 2016 and 2017 that acknowledged the religious group had responsibility for its systematic illegal activities.

The Cultural Affairs Agency, which has jurisdiction over religious corporations, will establish as early as Oct. 25 a meeting comprising 19 members of its parent ministry’s Religious Corporations Council. These members will include experts in the religious world and professors who will begin considering a basic viewpoint about implementing the right to ask questions.

Then culture minister Nagaoka will consult the council about the probe into the religious group, hearing from the council about specific investigation methods among other issues. The government will then conduct the probe as soon as possible this year.

In relation to this move, a Consumer Affairs Agency panel of experts to discuss measures to prevent the Unification Church’s spiritual sales tactics released a report Monday proposing five steps, including the consideration of a legal system to prohibit religious corporations from seeking inappropriate donations.