Ministry Puts Off Criminal Complaint Against Unification Church Over Adoption Arrangements

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Health, Labor, and Welfare Ministry in Tokyo.

A potential criminal complaint against the Unification Church over adoption arrangements among its followers will likely not be filed by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry for the time being, it has been learned.

The ministry concluded that it would be difficult to show a violation of the Adoption Mediation Law.

The ministry was unable to conclude that the religious group — officially called the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification — was engaged in mediation because information was not obtained from those who had adopted children from other followers in the past three years. The statute of limitations bars prosecution of cases older than that.

The ministry also took into consideration the fact that the group has abided by administrative guidance.

The law, which went into effect in April 2018, prohibits mediation businesses from operating without permission from prefectural governors. The Unification Church did not obtain this permission, but a number of adoptions were carried out between its followers.

Given this, the ministry launched an investigation last November, suspecting that the group may have engaged in unauthorized mediation of adoptions. The group said a total of 31 children were adopted after the law became effective.

The ministry made a request to the Unification Church to present the adoptive parents’ names and dates of birth in the 31 cases, but the group refused. The group admitted that it had requested that its followers submit “adoption arrangement application forms” in those cases, but it denied that it was involved in organized mediation.

Older adoptees gave testimony to the ministry such as that they were “used as tools for [the group’s] religious principles.” However, the ministry has so far not obtained testimony from adoptive parents who adopted children during the more recent period when a criminal complaint would be possible, and the prospect that the ministry will be able to obtain testimony from them in the future is not clear.

The ministry discussed the matter with investigative authorities, but negative opinions toward the filing of a criminal complaint were heard from the investigative side. For example: “The actual situation of mediation [by the group] is not clear as adoptive parents or biological parents have yet to be identified. It is also difficult to judge whether there was malicious intent.”

Meanwhile, the ministry on Jan. 23 sent a letter of administrative guidance to the group, requesting that expressions in its publications, which could be perceived as the group presenting itself as an intermediary for adoption, be revised in an appropriate manner.

In response, the Unification Church has sent to the ministry the revised publications, which include a request to its followers to report to the group after an adoption arrangement is agreed upon.

Also, a particular statement — “Families with many children have a responsibility to share [them]” — was deleted from the publications.

Based on these developments, the ministry apparently judged that it is difficult to file a criminal complaint against the group at this point. The ministry will continue to gather information on the issue, and if the actual situation of the mediation becomes clear, it will consider taking action, including filing a complaint, a ministry official said.