Japan Enacts Law to Monitor Unification Church Assets

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Diet Building in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, Japan.

Tokyo (Jiji Press)—The Diet, Japan’s parliament, on Wednesday passed into law a bill to monitor the assets of the controversial religious group Unification Church more closely to ensure relief to its victims.

The bill was approved by a majority vote at a plenary meeting of the House of Councillors, the upper chamber, with support from the ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito, as well as opposition parties including the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Innovation Party).

The special legislation, valid for three years, is designed to prevent the Unification Church from transferring abroad its assets, needed to fund expected compensation to the victims of the group’s malpractices, such as soliciting massive donations from followers by fueling their anxieties.

The government in October asked Tokyo District Court to issue an order to dissolve the Unification Church, formally called the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, under the religious corporation law.

This is the second enactment of legislation aimed at aiding Unification Church victims. The first law, enacted in December last year, is intended to prevent inappropriate solicitation of donations.

The latest law mandates that a religious group subject to a government request for a court order to disband the group give notice one month in advance to authorities when disposing of its real properties and submit a list of its assets every three months.

The legislation also expands support to promote the use of the Japan Legal Support Center, the central organization to provide legal assistance to citizens set up by the government.

Specifically, the law provides a system to temporarily cover the fees to lawyers affiliated with the center whom victims consulted, regardless of the amount of their income and assets. The law also sets a grace period to repay the costs covered by the center and broadens the scope for exemption from repayment.

The legislation was jointly submitted by the LDP, Komeito and the opposition Democratic Party for the People.

Meanwhile, the main opposition CDP and Nippon Ishin presented to the House of Representatives, the lower chamber, a counterproposal to allow a court to issue an asset preservation order to the Unification Church even before the group is given a dissolution order under the religious corporation law.

Negotiations failed for integrating the two bills, but the two camps agreed to add a clause to the ruling coalition-DPFP bill saying that how to ensure asset preservation will be discussed around three years after the law comes into force.

Along with the CDP, Nippon Ishin, the Japanese Communist Party voted for the bill in the Upper House plenary meeting.

At a meeting Tuesday, the Upper House Judicial Affairs Committee adopted a supplementary resolution calling for discussions about the asset preservation before the three years pass.