Unification Church in Japan Could Face Fine for Actions Related to Official Government Questioning

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Religious Juridical Persons Council approves the exercise of the right to ask questions to the Unification Church in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, in May.

The Unification Church could soon be fined for refusing to respond in official questioning by authorities, according to government sources.

The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry’s plan to fine the Unification Church, officially known as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, will soon be submitted for approval to the Religious Juridical Persons Council, an advisory body to culture minister Keiko Nagaoka.

It will be the first time for the government to seek a fine related to its legal authority to question a religious corporation.

Under the Religious Corporations Law, when the right to ask questions is exercised but a religious organization refuses to reply to the inquiries or makes false statements, its representative is subject to a civil fine of up to ¥100,000.

In November 2022, the ministry first exercised its right to ask questions. There was a view that the ministry would request a court order to dissolve the organization depending on the answers received. This was in light of questions regarding the substantial donations made to the Unification Church and the alleged damage caused by “spiritual sales” tactics.

In the seven times the right to ask questions was exercised, the ministry requested the Unification Church to report on a total of over 600 items, including organizational management, income and expenditures, overseas remittances and donations.

The religious organization has sometimes refused to respond, citing religious freedom among other reasons, making the investigation a difficult task, according to a senior ministry official.

To request a dissolution order, it is important to gather evidence that can prove that a religious corporation has violated the law. To substantiate unlawful conduct, the ministry needs to gather evidence that demonstrates that the act was done in an organized manner, had a malicious nature and was continual.