Japan weighs new law to restrict large donations

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Prime Minister’s Office in Tokyo

The government and ruling parties are considering enacting a new law that would provide relief to people who have experienced difficulties after making large donations to organizations, such as the Unification Church, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

Regulating demands for or unjust solicitation of donations would be a pillar of the new law, which could be submitted as soon as the ongoing Diet session, according to multiple government and ruling party sources. The new law also is intended to prevent cases similar to those that recently came to light involving the church, formally known as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification.

A Consumer Affairs Agency panel of experts issued a report on Oct. 17 that called for restrictions on such donations to be considered based on the public interest corporation certification law. Article 17 of this law prohibits continuously soliciting or demanding donations from people who have declared their intention not to donate, and engaging in any act that could “prejudice the interest” of people who had made donations. It has been proposed that the new law will contain similar restrictions.

In a separate move, the government is considering revising the Consumer Contract Law to ease the conditions required to apply restrictions on so-called spiritual sales tactics — in which people are coerced into buying expensive items — and to extend the period during which a purchase contract can be rescinded.

Whether a donation to a religious corporation constitutes a legal “contract” is vague in many cases, and the Religious Corporations Law has no provisions restricting donations to such an organization. “Slapping restrictions only on religious corporations could raise problems in terms of fairness,” a senior government official said. Consequently, the government and ruling parties apparently decided that instead of revising this law, a new law was necessary.

Whether the new law will be a government-sponsored bill or lawmaker-initiated legislation will be determined based on progress in discussions between four political parties — the Liberal Democratic Party, Komeito, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Innovation Party).

During a third round of talks held Thursday, officials from the four parties confirmed the necessity of regulating the solicitation of inappropriate donations and other practices. However, significant differences remained between the parties on the specifics of a new framework on this issue.