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Unification Church Dissolution Order Eyed on Oct. 13

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Japan headquarters of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification in Shibuya, Tokyo

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — The government is preparing to ask the Tokyo District Court to order the dissolution of the controversial Unification Church religious group as early as Oct. 13, informed sources said Friday.

The culture minister will formally decide to seek the dissolution order against the group, officially called the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, and begin related procedures after hearing expert opinions at a meeting of the Religious Juridical Persons Council, an advisory panel, scheduled for Thursday.

The Religious Corporations Law stipulates that a court can issue the order if, “in violation of laws and regulations, the religious corporation commits an act which is clearly found to harm public welfare substantially.”

A dissolution order under the law has been issued only twice, including against the Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult after a court found its executives to be liable for crimes deemed to have been carried out in an organized way.

It will be the first time for the government to seek a dissolution order based on an investigation mainly of civil court rulings.

The ministry first exercised its right to question the Unification Church last November, on the grounds that the group had been ordered to pay damages totaling at least ¥1.4 billion in 22 civil lawsuits, including those in which its unlawful acts were recognized. It was the first time that the government had used the questioning right.

It has since exercised the right on seven instances, demanding responses on over 500 topics, including the religious group’s management, donations, international money transfers, lawsuits and out-of-court settlements.

After conducting hearings with people who gave large donations to the group and with the National Network of Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales, the government determined that the Unification Church’s unlawful activities were organized, malicious and persistent, meeting the criteria for seeking a dissolution order.