Photo/Illutration A building that the Cultural Affairs Agency is located in Tokyo (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

The Cultural Affairs Agency on Oct. 25 started collecting the opinions of experts before it launches an official probe of the the Unification Church that could lead to its dissolution.

The right of investigation is defined by the Religious Corporation Law, but one has never been conducted.

To carefully move the process along, the agency will ask legal experts and others on what problems can make a religious corporation the subject of such an investigation among other issues.

The process is the first step for the central government with a view of investigating the church, now formally called the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, and asking a court to issue a dissolution order in the future.

As a preliminary step toward that goal, the agency has established a panel of experts consisting of legal experts and officials of religious groups.

The panel held its first meeting on the morning of Oct. 25.

The agency was expected to ask at the meeting what types of problems, including legal violations, will allow the agency to investigate a religious corporation in general.

It is intended to prevent an investigation by the government from being criticized as an arbitrary one.

After that, the agency is expected to place the matter before the agency’s Council for Religious Corporation and ask whether the agency should enforce the right and what types of questions the agency should ask in an actual investigation based on the law.

The law allows a court to order a religious corporation to be dissolved when a religious corporation “commits an illegal act and harms public welfare significantly.”

Keiko Nagaoka, the education minister, has expressed the desire to launch an investigation of the church “before the end of the year and as soon as possible.”

The ministry is expected to start the process to request a court to issue a dissolution order to the church once it has concluded that it has collected enough evidence through an investigation to justify such an action. 

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has said in responding to questions in the Diet that it is possible to consider an illegal act in accordance with the Civil Code to be enough to issue an order to a religious corporation to be dissolved.

Kishida said the government has recognized that in civil cases involving the church, organized illegal acts have been confirmed in two cases, and that the courts have held the group or people who hold control and supervision of the group accountable in 20 cases.