Kishida seeks Diet support over bill to ban excessive donations to religious groups

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks at a Budget Committee session of the House of Representatives in the Diet on Friday.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida sought Diet backing last week for a bill to support people who have faced difficulties after making large donations to religious groups and to ban such practices.

In a session of the House of Representatives’ Budget Committee on Friday, Kishida said the bill “can help a wide range of people who have not received support, and can also help to prevent problems in the future.”

The bill was prompted by problems linked to the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification.

“We shall submit the bill during the current Diet session and aim to pass it as soon as possible,” Kishida said.

The focus of the debate in Friday’s Budget Committee session was whether the new legislation would be able to nullify donations people have made willfully.

Kishida expressed an opinion that it would be difficult to regulate donations made voluntarily from a constitutional point of view.

Kishida said, “We are considering a system based on the obligee’s right of subrogation,” referring to a legal concept in the Civil Code that the government believes can be applied to cases in which the return of a donation is sought.

The proposed bill would prohibit the solicitation of financial donations through so-called spiritual sales tactics or other such means.

The draft stipulates that if a person in a confused state donates money through solicitation that violates the law, the donor will be able to nullify the donation and seek the return of the money from the recipient, including religious organizations.

Under the proposed legislation, if family members have the right to receive child support or other such expenses from donors, there would be a possibility for relatives to seek the nullification of a donation on their behalf, if donors choose not to exercise the right themselves.

The “obligee’s right of subrogation” would make such demands possible.

The proposed bill aims to establish a special rule in the Civil Code through which family members would be able to demand future payments of child support and other expenses.

However, a government source said that if a donor insists a financial donation was not made under duress, it would be difficult for family members to demand damages or the return of the money.

Akira Nagatsuma, policy research committee chairperson of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, has called for the bill to permit nullifications of donations even if a donor is not in a confused state, stressing that “donations have been made repeatedly under duress and voluntarily.”

Taro Kono, minister for consumer affairs, said it is difficult to define and restrict indoctrination. “Followers make use of their assets by themselves, but it is difficult to intervene as it is their right to do so. Even their family members cannot obstruct them,” Kono said.

Kono also claimed that proposals put forward by the CDPJ and other opposition parties contain elements that would possibly infringe on rights guaranteed under the Constitution.

The government has considered adding a clause to protect donors by asking religious organizations to ensure that those who are solicited for donations do not lose their ability to make appropriate decisions.