Bar associations: 80% of hotline consultations were related to Unification Church

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
A sign for the Bar Association Building is seen in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo.

Among 389 cases in which people consulted the Japan Federation of Bar Associations (JFBA) since September over spiritual sales tactics and donations, 80% were related to the Unification Church, the federation has said.

Many of the consultations involved claims for damages of at least ¥10 million.

“[These figures] show how significant [the issue of ] massive donations is,” according to the JFBA.

The JFBA launched its phone and internet consultation hotline on Sept. 5 in response to issues involving the Unification Church, officially known as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification. The federation had received 624 consultations across the nation by Oct. 24 and it analyzed 389 cases reported by lawyers belonging to any of the three bar associations in Tokyo.

According to the analysis, about 80%, or 309 cases, were related to the Unification Church.

Almost half of the consultations were from the victims, while the other half were from their relatives. People in their 50s or older accounted for 76% of those seeking help.

Of these consultations, 253 cases or 81%, were about financial damage, including from donations. Among them, there were 128 cases involving claims of damage of ¥10 million or more, 14 cases of damage claims of ¥50 million or more but less than ¥100 million, and 17 cases involving damages of ¥100 million or more.

The federation said those who consulted the hotline made statements such as, “I was taken to a notary office and urged to write in a document that I had donated of my own volition,” or “My mother, who is a [Unification Church] follower, mortgaged her house to borrow money for donations.”

Legislation for an envisaged new law to provide relief to the victims of religious groups and prevent future harm, which the government plans to submit to the current Diet session, is expected to ban such practices as confusing donors with unfair solicitations and asking followers to borrow money to raise funds.

The federation said, “We’ll continue to investigate the actual situation.”