The first in a series of articles by an award-winning Japanese journalist, who reveals who is behind the unreasonable and unjust request to dissolve the church.
by Masumi Fukuda
Article 1 of 4
Last October, bowing to pressure from the media and public opinion, Prime Minister Kishida reversed his previous cautious stance and announced his intention to exercise the right to ask questions to the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification [a move that under Japanese law is preliminary to seeking the dissolution of a religious organization]. In response, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) exercised its first right to ask questions on November 22. And in December, approximately 200,000 online signatures were submitted to the Division of Religious Affairs of the Agency for Cultural Affairs in the MEXT, demanding that an order to dissolve the Family Federation should be sought and obtained as soon as possible. Hiroaki Ishizaki, who was the head of the Division of Religious Affairs at that time, made the following promise to [apostate ex-member of the Family Federation] Sayuri Ogawa and [anti-cult journalist] Eight Suzuki, who were visiting the Division: “We will collect enough evidence to avoid that it may be overturned in court.”
But what about the results? Although the MEXT has now exercised its right to ask questions for five times, it has not “collected enough evidence.” In fact, it has not found a single piece of evidence. This is the best proof that the religious organization is innocent.
Not unexpectedly, an increasing number of citizens are beginning to wonder why attorney Masaki Kito, Yoshio Arita, Eight Suzuki, and others are so insistent on the dissolution of the Family Federation, and why they are so obsessed with this issue. Some have argued that “If the National Network of Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales wants to dissolve the Family Federation, why don’t they just request an order to dissolve it themselves?” Lawyer Kito and others did not respond to such objections.
In fact, however, the National Network of Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales had petitioned MEXT multiple times in the past, asking it to exercise its right to ask questions to the Family Federation. However, the Agency for Cultural Affairs rejected the petitions. The reasons were that in 2003, “There are no data providing the grounds for invoking this right,” and in 2008, that “Even though there are many cases in which the religious corporation has lost civil lawsuits, these are only cases of vicarious liability. We do not think that these cases justify a report or an investigation.”
Unhappy with these responses, the National Network of Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales filed a lawsuit for state compensation with the Tokyo District Court in 2012, claiming that the MEXT’s failure to exercise its right to ask questions and to request a dissolution order against the Family Federation was illegal. In 2017, however, the Tokyo District Court dismissed the claim, on the grounds that the Agency for Cultural Affairs had interviewed the Family Federation nine times in the past, and that the non-exercise of the right to ask questions was not unreasonable.
The readers should consider that this happened in the years 2003 and 2008, i.e., before the Family Federation’s 2009 Declaration of Compliance [with the laws prohibiting the so-called “spiritual sales”], and the number of claims for damages was higher than it is today. Even under such circumstances, the MEXT decided that the non-exercise of the right to ask questions was reasonable. It should also be noted that for the seven years from 2016 to 2023, i.e., from the last year before 2017, when the Tokyo District Court rejected the Network’s state compensation claim, to the present, not a single lawsuit has been filed over new donations from believers, and the number of “victims” of the spiritual sales has also drastically decreased.
In other words, the MEXT suddenly exercised its right to ask question at the will of Prime Minister Kishida last year, after having rejected all the repeated requests of the National Network of Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales up until then, although the claims of damages allegedly caused by the Family Federation had been decreasing rather than increasing. Both the Network and the MEXT should have realized how logically and objectively unreasonable their acts were.
Furthermore, according to an investigation by lawyer Tatsuki Nakayama, who represents the Family Federation’s international headquarters, in three cases orders to dissolve religious corporations were sought in court. In one case, the founder had raped and indecently assaulted a number of female believers. In another case, the founder assaulted and killed a believer. In the third case, a leader of the organization administered “spiritual therapy” to a believer who died as a consequence. However, in none of these cases was an order issued to dissolve the organizations. In fact, they continue to exist today as religious corporations.
On the contrary, in another five cases no request for a dissolution order was filed nor was the right to ask questions exercised. These included a case where a group of devotees lynched another believer to death, and one where a number of criminal cases had been filed and the leader was convicted of fraud. Except for one, all these organizations continue to operate as religious corporations today.
In contrast, while the Family Federation has certainly been involved in several civil lawsuits in the past, it has not had any criminal cases against it or involving its executives, which is normally the ground for requesting a dissolution order. In other words, the exercise of the right to ask questions in this case is remarkably unfair, as it emerges from a comparison with the cases of these other religious organizations.
Nevertheless, the desperate and extraordinary persistence of the National Network of Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales in trying to force the government to dissolve the Family Federation at any cost looks like a form of fanaticism. They pride themselves on being an anti-cult organization that fights “cults,” but their brand of anti-cultism looks “cultic” enough itself.
The largest problem, in my opinion, is the fact that they would literally do anything to destroy the Family Federation. As a result, they have fabricated several “pseudo-victims.”
In the December 2022 issue of the magazine “Hanada,” I contributed an article with the title “Crimes of ‘Deprogrammers’: Not Reported by Newspapers and Television.” In the article, I described how, in the past, more than 4,300 believers were literally abducted and confined by their relatives, who were instigated by professional deprogrammers and Christian pastors, and were forced to abandon their faith. The majority of these believers left the church under extreme circumstances. They understood they could not be freed from confinement unless they agreed to leave the church and abandon their faith. The anti-Unification-Church camp “used” the deprogrammed believers for various purposes and profited from them in a vicious way.
First, they received lavish honoraria from the believers’ relatives for their successful deprogramming. It was also an excellent opportunity for the numerous Christian pastors who had been actively involved in deprogramming to bring the deprogrammed believers, who were experiencing a religious void, into their own denominations. In fact, many deprogrammed believers converted to these pastors’ brands of Christianity.
As a final step, the deprogrammers urged the former believers to sue the organizations to which they once belonged. If they refused to do so, they were suspected of having faked their defection, so they had no choice but to agree to sue.
In other words, former believers were forced to abandon their faith and presented as victims of the former Unification Church. They had to claim that they had been brainwashed by the church and forced to join. They also had to claim that they had been forced to purchase pots and pagodas [as objects with a spiritual significance, sold at a price significantly higher than their material value], and to make large donations.
When the trials began, they were represented by attorneys from the National Network of Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales, including Masaki Kito and Hiroshi Yamaguchi. For the Network, the deprogramming business was of great benefit because its lawyers were able to greatly increase the requests for damages allegedly caused by the “spiritual sales” and pocket the corresponding attorney’s fees.