Govt poised to question Unification Church

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Cabinet minister Keiko Nagaoka enters the Prime Minister’s Office on Friday.

The government will exercise its right to question the Unification Church over several allegations linked to the group, Cabinet minister Keiko Nagaoka said Friday.

The “right to ask questions” is a provision under the Religious Corporations Law that allows the government and relevant authorities to request reports from religious groups. The provision, which can be applied when a religious organization is suspected of violating regulations, has not been used since its establishment in 1996.

“In accordance with the procedures under the Religious Corporations Law, we would like to take strict action based on the facts we have gathered,” Nagaoka, the education, culture, sports, science and technology minister, said at a press conference on Friday.

According to Nagaoka, the application of the provision meets the Cultural Affairs Agency’s criteria based on rulings against the group in 22 civil lawsuits — two of which recognized the illegality of acts committed systematically, and 20 recognized its employer liability under the Civil Code.

The group, officially called the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, has been ordered to pay compensation totaling at least ¥1.4 billion.

The Cultural Affairs Agency plans to present the questions by the end of the year following consultations with the Religious Juridical Persons Council. There could be multiple rounds of questioning, depending on the response from the Unification Church.

Nagaoka will conclude whether to request a court order to dissolve the group based on the findings.

The agency developed criteria for the application of the provision based on the discussions of a panel of experts. According to the criteria, the provision can be exercised when there is a suspicion a religious group has violated regulations, causing widespread harm or serious consequences, and the suspicion is based on the judgment of public authorities, among others.

With support from the Justice Ministry, the National Tax Agency and other agencies, the Religious Affairs Division now has 38 personnel.

The division in the Cultural Affairs Agency is formulating the questions and has been sharing information with the National Network of Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales, a group that has been supporting victims impacted by the Unification Church.