While some problems existed in the past, only four lawsuits have been filed for refund of donations since 2009, and not a single case has been filed in the last seven years.
by Tatsuki Nakayama
The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) has exercised the right to question the acts of the Family Federation on the grounds that there is suspicion of “organizationality, continuity, and maliciousness.” However, there is no organizationality, maliciousness, or continuity, as follows.
In the first place, the Religious Corporations Act specifies that the dissolution reason cannot be a violation by the “individual” believer, but a violation by a “religious corporation.” Individual crime and dissolution of a corporation are separate, and even if an individual believer commits a crime, the religious corporation cannot be automatically dissolved.
In what cases can a religious corporation itself be deemed to have violated laws? The answer is, when it commits a crime as an organization. As to this “organizationality,” the Tokyo High Court, at the dissolution of Aum Shinrikyo, defined it as “an act committed by the representative officer of a religious corporation using the property acquired and accumulated in the name of the corporation and the human and material organizations built on the basis thereof.” This is what “organizationality” is all about. In short, a religious corporation can only be condemned if “the executive is in a relationship that takes advantage of the faithful.”
However, in cases involving members of the Family Federation, there is no such organizationality. There is no fact that the executives took advantage of believers to commit evil deeds. Even in the current hostile media coverage, there is no report at all that “Chairperson Tanaka of the Family Federation took advantage of the believers to commit bad deeds.”
In this way, if we analyze the judicial precedents of Aum Shinrikyo, we can immediately see that there is no “organizationality” in the Family Federation. Further analysis shows that, in the past, the only time a Family Federation believer was brought to a criminal trial was the 2009 Shinsei case, but the Family Federation was not responsible as an
organization. In this Shinsei case, the Family Federation was searched and seized, but none of the Family Federation employees were prosecuted because there was no evidence of collusion between the Family Federation and the Shinsei company.
This is probably because not only the courts but also the investigating authorities could not find organized misconduct in the Family Federation. Even in these cases, there is no evidence of executives taking advantage of the faithful.
In addition, it appears that the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) seems to want to recognize “organizationality, continuity, and maliciousness” from the civil trials in which the Family Federation lost. However, even in the two court cases that recognized the donation-related tortious acts of the Family Federation itself, there was no finding of Family Federation “executives taking advantage of the acts of the faithful.”
Further, it seems the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) is trying to recognize “organizationality” by citing 22 cases in which the Family Federation lost on employers’ liability. However, upon careful legal investigation, we found that the Family Federation won about half of those cases. An analysis of each claim in each case (each donation act, about 1,000 items) shows that the Family Federation won 50% of the cases, and won 48% in terms of the total amount.
In this way, in about half of the trials, no tort was found by the Family Federation, and the Family Federation actually won. In 22 court cases, the Family Federation won or lost by half and half—half of which the court does not even recognize tort. Given this, it is not fair to take only half of the losses and accuse them of being “organized.”
In the past, the psychic manipulative sales or so-called “spiritual sales,” was regarded as a problem with the Family Federation. This is a case in which the sales method of a company run by a believer who sold seals was disputed.
Certainly, it seems that there have been times when believers are so religious and pious that they have engaged in activities that are a bit outside the common sense of the general society. However, the organizational responsibility of the Family Federation is not recognized by judicial precedent.
In particular, after the Family Federation issued a Declaration of Compliance in 2009, based on past reflections, it has been working to carry out activities that are close to the common sense of the word by alerting against and refraining from emphasizing ancestral ties, psychic abilities, and excessive donations.
Therefore, as far as I have seen, compliance seems to be so pervasive in the Family Federation that it makes us wonder, “Is there any better and more sound religious organization than the Family Federation?” In fact, only four lawsuits have been filed for refund of donations since 2009, and not a single case has been filed in the last seven years.
The Act on the Prevention of Unfair Solicitation of Donations, which prevents unfair donation solicitations, was enacted in December last year, but I honestly doubt how effective this law will be for the purposes of saving the alleged “victims” when no lawsuit has been filed for donations in the past seven years.
Even in a case of receiving a large donation from a member of the Family Federation, it cannot be determined that the Family Federation has done something systematically unlawful.
Certainly, there were times when the atmosphere was such that each church and believers competed with each other over the amount of donations. However, the Family Federation does not impose sanctions or disadvantages on believers who fail to achieve their goals. Therefore, it cannot be said that the Family Federation has set a “quota” for the target amount of donations, and it cannot be confirmed that the Family Federation used coercion to force a large amount of donations.
In particular, after the 2009 Declaration of Compliance, the Family Federation has built a personnel evaluation system that prohibits forcing large donations, and it has tightened the confirmation procedure when receiving large donations. With these in mind, I don’t think the Family Federation will have problems with large donations in the future.
At the end of July this year, the National Network of Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales filed for civil mediation regarding cases where the alleged victims are seeking the return of their donations. I think the reason why they chose mediation over litigation was because they didn’t have enough evidence to uphold the lawsuit.
There is still a general concern that excessive donations could destroy families. However, it is still unclear to what extent the Family Federation is responsible for the family situation of Tetsuya Yamagami, who killed former Prime Minister Abe. It must be calmly discussed pending the outcome of Yamagami’s criminal trial.
Problems of the second-generation believers
The treatment of “second-generation religious believers” became a hot topic. As to the Family Federation, it seems to have given insufficient consideration to each family while bearing the word “Family” in its name. Therefore, it is now focusing on reforming this family issue.
Although Article 18(4) of the International Covenant on Human Rights allows parents to educate their children based on their religious beliefs, I believe that the biggest challenge for the Family Federation is how to reconcile the piety of the devout first-generation believers with their children, or second-generation followers.
Going a little deeper into this issue, it seems that the Family Federation has a stronger centripetal force and magnetism toward the religious doctrine than other religions, perhaps because the “Divine Principle” takes on an academic color.
From my point of view, the depth of their faith can be described as “a very rich source,” especially before the 2009 Declaration of Compliance. However, even though they had such deep faith in their teaching, since the 2009 Declaration of Compliance, they were able to build a system to prevent excessive donations, so I do not think that the sincerity or depth of their faith has caused friction with society. Rather, it is an organization that is making tearful efforts to harmonize with society. It is unfortunate that this situation has not been reported.
In any case, I think it is important to increase opportunities for dialogue in order to reconcile the seriousness of faith of first-generation believers with the values of second-generation believers.
Family Federation donations come from the Christian tradition of donating one-tenth of one’s income. There is a famous passage in the Bible: “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:25). The reason why donations are easier to understand in Europe and the United States is based on this biblical teaching. In Japan, where Christianity is not very widespread, it seems difficult to understand this biblical offering.
It cannot be said that the Family Federation is “continuously” doing bad things. Since the 2009 Declaration of Compliance, the number of civil trials in which the Family Federation is the defendant has decreased sharply. In particular, it should be noted that not a single civil court has received a complaint about donations in the last seven years.
Compared to before and after the 2009 Declaration of Compliance, the number of donation trials has plummeted to about one-fortieth of that. In terms of the lost amount of employee liability, 99.7% is for actions before the Declaration of Compliance. After the 2009 Declaration of Compliance, the number of lost cases plummeted to about 1/300 or 0.33%.
In this way, no one should try to turn the brunt of “continuously doing malicious things” onto the Family Federation. It established a new donation system after the 2009 Declaration of Compliance, drastically reduced the number of donation trials to 1/40 and the number of lost cases to about 1/300, and has not been tried in civil or criminal cases in the past ten years or so.