Japan Weighs Moving Against Unification Church

Government is investigating fundraising activities
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 4, 2023 4:25 PM CDT
Japan Considers Seeking Unification Church's Dissolution
Japanese members of the Unification Church wave South Korean and Japanese flags at a rally before an anniversary celebration of Korea’s liberation from Japan’s colonial rule, in Seoul, South Korea, in 2012.   (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

Japan's government, which is investigating the Unification Church's fundraising practices in light of the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, is considering going to court to have the church dissolved if the evidence gathered is convincing. A Japanese newspaper, the Asahi Shimbun, reported that government officials said that the church's "vicious" activities could disqualify it from the religious freedom protections in the constitution. Japanese courts can dissolve organizations that have committed acts that are "detrimental to public welfare," per the Guardian. That could happen as soon as next month.

Other officials are urging that the case be reviewed carefully first, fearing that proving illegal activity and tying it to the church may not be possible, per Japan Today, which reports that the church has become increasingly less forthcoming to investigators. Church officials argue that its senior leaders have never been implicated criminally, per Kyodo News. They call the government questioning of its practices illegal, saying that violations of civil law would not provide for dissolving the church anyway.

The church, founded in South Korea in 1954 by Sun Myung Moon, reports having 100,000 active believers in Japan and collecting almost $1 billion in donations since 1987. Police have reported that the man charged with killing Abe last summer said he did so partly because the leader's grandfather played a role in bring the Unification Church to Japan in 1968. He also said his mother had donated so much money to the church that it ruined the family financially. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's party has been criticized for its connections to the church. (Read more Unification Church stories.)

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