Experts propose steps against ‘spiritual sales’ donation tactics in report targeting Unification Church

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The building that houses the Consumer Affairs Agency in Tokyo

An expert panel of the Consumer Affairs Agency on Monday released a report proposing measures against so-called spiritual sales tactics, such as calling for an investigation into the Unification Church and considering a legal system to prohibit religious corporations from seeking unreasonable donations.

The panel called for the Unification Church, officially known as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, to be probed based on the Religious Corporations Law with an eye to seeking a dissolution order.

In many cases, donations to religious corporations are not regarded as contracts subject to the Consumer Contract Law, making it difficult to recover donations made in response to unreasonable demands by religious groups.

Given this, the panel stressed in a five-point proposal in the report that it is important to consider measures such as invalidating such donations. To that end, it called for considering the establishment of a legal system that would prohibit religious corporations from asking for donations while concealing information about their activities, as well as allowing people to recover donations made under such circumstances.

As part of measures against spiritual sales tactics, the panel has proposed revising the Consumer Contract Law. It recommended the addition of a provision that will make it possible to rescind a contract resulting from spiritual sales tactics if the donor is unable to make a rational decision because they are under psychological control. The panel also sought to consider extending the current cancellation periods, which are five years after a contract is signed and one year after the person becomes aware of damage.

Regarding damage caused by spiritual sales tactics, the panel stressed the need for cooperation between experts and relevant organizations as well as the establishment of specialized consultation services. It also identifies a need for support for second-generation followers who have experienced hardship because of their parents’ faith. To prevent future damage, the panel pointed to the need to promote education across a range of generations. It also highlighted the importance of disclosing the names of organizations that are engaged in spiritual sales tactics and to inform people of how to avoid becoming victims and where to consult about such matters.

The panel members, who have met once a week since Aug. 29, drew up these proposals when compiling the report at their seventh meeting on Thursday.