Japan wants Unification Church legal status revoked

Unification Church

The Unification Church could lose its legal status in Japan if the government has its way.

The Japanese government has formally asked the court to remove Japan’s official recognition from the Church after a year-long probe into its activities.

It had been watching the Unification Church closely since former prime minister Shinzo Abe was assassinated in July last year.

What prompted the request?

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida ordered a probe into the Church last year after he heard Abe’s murder was motivated by resentment against it.

He had heard the man accused of shooting Abe alleged the church had bankrupted his family because of his mother’s excessive donations to it.

Japan’s Education Minister said over 170 people were interviewed before the request to remove the government’s official recognition was made.

All alleged they have been harmed by the Unification Church’s fundraising tactics and other problems.

He also said church members have been blamed for child neglect.

In addition the Minister said, despite seven inquiries, the Unification Church has never answered any of the questions put to it.

These findings led Kishida to ask for the court’s intervention.

The government’s plan was based on facts and a careful review of the matter, he said.

“Based on the law and in accordance with the objective facts, careful work was done and the Minister of Education made the decision.”

What now

Now the dissolution has been formally requested, the government will have to “fully prepare” for any trials, a spokesperson says.

The case is expected to be a lengthy one, with the Unification Church expected to fight back through the court system.

If the court accepts the government’s request, the church will lose its tax-exempt status. It will be able to continue its religious practices however.

Speaking at a press conference, Japan’s Justice Minister said “a significant number of people were still suffering from problems linked to the Unification Church.”

His ministry would work to help ease their “dire situation,” he said.

Japan’s political ties to the Church

The South Korea-based church and Japan’s governing Liberal Democratic Party has had a close relationship for decades.

These were revealed in the investigation of Abe’s 2022 assassination, triggering public outrage.

Founded in South Korea in 1954 by Sun Myung Moon, the Unification Church’s members are colloquially known as “Moonies”.

The church rose to global prominence in the 1970s and 1980s.

Japan has been a key financier for the church, which teaches Japanese believers they need to atone for their country’s wartime occupation of Korea.


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