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Haruhisa Nakagawa

【#1121】Religious Believers Should Not Acquiesce to Religious Freedom Violations

Haruhisa Nakagawa / 2024.02.28 (Wed)

February 26, 2024

Education Minister Masahito Moriyama has emphasized his denial of connection with the Unification Church despite past support for his election campaigns from an affiliate of the church, while Unification Church followers who provided the support have been outraged by his attitude of abandoning them and countered by leaking their relations with him to the media.

The dispute originated from the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe who was gunned down on July 8, 2022, by a terrorist who hated the Unification Church. Incumbent Prime Minister Fumio Kishida took this opportunity to declare the severance of ties with the Unification Church on August 31 of the same year. Since then, the government has gathered information for a preconceived conclusion, reinterpreted the requirements for requesting the dissolution of a religious corporation under the Religious Corporation Act as including torts under the Civil Code, and applied the reinterpretation retroactively. It filed a request for a dissolution order for the church with the Tokyo District Court on October 13 last year. There was neither cabinet decision on the reinterpretation nor minutes for meetings that discussed the reinterpretation. The government has tried desperately to dissolve the church in accordance with the terrorist's aspiration, leaving the matter confused and out of control.

Exaggerated criticism against the Unification Church 

Information sources about the Unification Church were limited initially. On tabloid TV shows almost every day, journalist Eito Suzuki, Yoshio Arita, a former House of Councilors member of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, Masaki Kito of the National Network of Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales, and Kimiaki Nishida of the Japan Society for Cult Prevention and Recovery were among leading voices against the Unification Church. They have been close comrades of the anti-Unification Church since long ago, and to me, it seemed like the same group expressing a single opinion from different mouths.

While I myself have been critical of the Unification Church over 25 years, I have not trusted information from Suzuki and others that contained many biases, exaggerations, and mistakes. It seems that the National Network of Lawyers has a strong left-leaning tendency and the Unification Church issue appears to have been politically exploited.

An important truth concerning the National Network of Lawyers has not been discussed yet. In fact, the network has deep connections with perpetrators involved in the abduction and confinement of Unification Church followers. So far, more than 4,300 people have been confirmed as victims of confinement. The confinees have sued the Unification Church to demonstrate their apostasy, accumulating the number of court cases involving the church. Faith is at the core of religious believers’ personality, and forcibly taking it away through confinement is unacceptable.

The issue lies in the fact that abduction and confinement are inextricably linked to “black propaganda” —information campaigns involving exaggerations and distortions. By labeling the Unification Church as a “cult,” relentlessly tarnishing its social reputation, and inflating its negative image, the black propaganda has justified abduction and confinement under the guise of “rescue.” We should not be complicit in the black propaganda if it is a means of the criminal act of abduction and confinement. Rather, we should recognize positive aspects of the Unification Church and restore its honor.

Depriving of political participation rights

The government is now violating the religious freedom of one religious corporation and attempting to deprive it of political participation rights. Nevertheless, Japan's religious community has not raised its voice in protest. If the government is left to do so, the religious circle will immediately atrophy. If religion atrophies, the good spirituality and culture of Japan will be lost. Such consequence should not be allowed.

Haruhisa Nakagawa is Pastor of the Lord's Sheep Christian Church and Secretary of the Tokyo Theological Institute.