THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
November 19, 2022 at 14:50 JST
The building housing the Consumer Affairs Agency where officials are putting together legislation to deal with donations made to the Unification Church (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
Proposed legislation to help victims of religious groups such as the Unification Church contains a provision banning donations of borrowed money or when funds are obtained by selling the family home.
The step is in response to horror stories from children of members of the Unification Church who lived in abject poverty because of large donations made by their parents.
The proposed measure will also cover donations by individuals to all corporations and organizations, not just religious organizations like the one formally known as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification.
The legislation outline was presented Nov. 18 by the Consumer Affairs Agency to officials at the secretary-general level of six major political parties.
In addition, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s Cabinet the same day approved a bill to revise the Consumer Contract Law and the National Consumer Affairs Center of Japan Law to strengthen measures to deal with shady “spiritual sales” techniques that prey on the fears of church devotees.
The administration is seeking to pass all the measures in the current Diet session.
However, opposition lawmakers pushed for more stringent measures, and officials of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party were already conceding that the extraordinary session would likely need to be extended beyond its current Dec. 10 scheduled end.
The opposition wants a provision that sets limits on the donations that could be made to religious organizations.
But junior coalition partner Komeito remains opposed to setting a ceiling because its main supporter, Soka Gakkai, is a religious organization.
Komeito officials came up with a compromise proposal to ban donations of funds acquired through the sale of homes and buildings.
The legislation also includes provisions to allow dependent children and spouses to rescind donations made to the church by family members as a way of preserving their right to be supported by the parent or spouse.
The proposal lays out six examples of acts in soliciting donations that would be banned, such as demanding donations or purchases to ward off bad luck or misfortune, or refusing to let a prospective donor go home.
The provision to allow children and a spouse to rescind donations was included because of concerns that members brainwashed by a religious organization would be unlikely to realize their actions were causing financial hardship for family members and would not seek to rescind the donations themselves.
The legislation would also strengthen the authority of administrative agencies to issue recommendations or orders to corporations found to repeatedly conduct illegal solicitations. Criminal penalties would be imposed on corporations that ignored the orders.
(This article was written by Mihoko Terada and Hiroki Koizumi.)
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