A portrait of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hangs on stage at the state funeral of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Nippon Budokan in Tokyo, Japan, 27 September 2022. EFE-EPA/FRANCK ROBICHON / POOL/FILE

Moon Sect criticizes Japanese govt’s request for its dissolution

Tokyo, Oct 16 (EFE).- The Unification Church said Monday that the Japanese government’s initiative to strip it of the status of a religious organization represents “a threat to human rights,” and warned of a “long legal battle” against this executive measure.

Those responsible for this church, also known as the Moon sect, reacted to the government’s decision last week, taken as a result of the investigations opened into the organization. This is due to its indirect link to the assassination in July 2022 of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the hands of a victim of the creed.

Japan has requested the dissolution of the group under the law of religious entities on the grounds that it subjected its believers to abusive practices to obtain funds. This request will now be analyzed by a court.

The church’s legal officer, Nobuo Okamura, said this is a “regrettable decision” that “poses a threat to human rights and democracy” and that “could put Japan in the same situation as a totalitarian regime,” in a press conference held Monday.

Okamura said the organization “is making a lot of efforts” to gain the understanding of the Japanese people, adding that the government’s decision “has no legal basis” and that the church will resort to “a long legal battle” to prevent said measure.

If it loses its status as a religious organization, the Unification Church would be deprived of the tax benefits it enjoys, although it could continue to operate in the country as another type of entity.

The Japanese legal system allows relevant authorities to request the dissolution as a religious organization of groups that commit acts that substantially harm public welfare.

So far only two religious organizations have been subject to such an order, one of them the Aum Shinrikyo cult, the architect of the sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995.

Founded in 1954 in South Korea, the Unification Church is known for its mass weddings and has generated controversy in Japan for decades for its demanding donations and practice of “spiritual sales,” in which it allegedly coerces its members to buy objects at exorbitant prices. Numerous legal proceedings have been opened in the archipelago over the matter.

The group came under renewed scrutiny after Abe’s assassination, after which numerous victims of the creed came to light, especially children of members who claim to have been robbed and extorted at the hands of their parents to make donations to the group. They have also suffered financial hardship as a result of his parents’ bankruptcy.

The alleged perpetrator of the assassination, Tetsuya Yamagami, confessed to having attacked Abe due to the politician’s alleged links with the creed, which had caused serious problems for his family, according to his account.

The public focus on the Unification Church after Abe’s assassination uncovered important connections between national politics and the group, which would have been organizing vote-buying or vote-rigging campaigns, which at the time motivated a cabinet reform. EFE