Read More Atheist Republic Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida commanded an investigation into the Unification Church amidst a growing scandal between his party and the church.
PM Kishida instructed his Education and Culture Minister Keiko Nagaoka to probe the ties between the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and the South Korean religious organization known as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification. Nagaoka said she would commence the investigation “immediately.”
BREAKING Japan PM instructs minister to launch Unification Church probehttps://t.co/J5UVieEHI3
— Nikkei Asia (@NikkeiAsia) October 17, 2022
The Prime Minister announced the investigation on Monday during a session in Japan’s Parliament. This decision comes in the wake of the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. This event revealed multiple connections between high-ranking officials of the LDP and the church. He also mentioned that the government would carry out the probe through the Religious Corporations Act, which gives the Japanese government the “right to ask questions” to religious organizations operating in the East Asian country.
The suspect of the killing, 41-year-old Tetsuya Yamagami, said he assassinated Japan’s longest-serving Prime Minister over his apparent ties with the church. According to him, the church defrauded his mother into donating around 100 million yen or $672,000 US Dollars. NHK (Japanese Public Broadcasting) also reported that Tetsuya targeted Shinzo Abe because his grandfather, former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, helped the Unification Church expand in Japan in the 1950s.
The alleged assassin of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, was born into an affluent but troubled family. A glimpse of his painful childhood has led to a surprising amount of sympathy in Japan due to his mother’s links to a controversial church. https://t.co/BZQkgHRz9f
— The Associated Press (@AP) August 26, 2022
These revelations also forced relatives of the church’s members to expose the organization of forcing members to donate. An internal survey of the Liberal Democratic Party discovered that almost half of their legislators had some connections with the church.
Although PM Kishida initially hesitated to investigate the church out of fears of trampling religious freedoms, increasing public pressure and growing evidence of his party’s ties with the church compelled him to begin the investigation. He also purged high-ranking officials who had connections with the church, including former Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi, and apologized for their ties with the Unification Church. Kishida also pledged to remove the party’s ties to the church.
According to a poll by the Kyodo news agency, his cabinet received a 35% approval rating, the lowest since Kishida took office in 2021. A government hotline created to deal with complaints and issues related to the Unification Church received more than 1,700 cases from the public, ranging from financial to mental health concerns.
Mainichi poll shows Kishida Cabinet support rate plummet 16 points to only 36%, and it is the Shinzo Abe legacy issues dragging it down. 87% (!) of Japanese say LDP ties with Unification Church are a “problem.” Nearly two-thirds (64%) say its a “serious problem.” (MP) #Japan
— SNA Japan (@ShingetsuNews) August 21, 2022
The Unification Church, which has around 100,000 active members in Japan, could lose its tax-exempt status, depending on the result of the investigation and a court ruling. However, they would still be allowed to operate in the country. The church denied any wrongdoing and blamed the Japanese media and lawyers for twisting the narrative of Abe’s assassination and turning the assailant into a victim of the church, pinning the blame on them for the killing. They also added that their members had suffered attacks and harassment since the assassination.
So far, only two religious organizations have been dissolved by Japanese courts. The first one is Aum Shinrikyo, notorious for the Tokyo subway sarin gas attacks that its members carried out in 1995. Another was the Myokakuji Temple Group, accused of defrauding their followers by charging them for exorcisms.