Tokyo, Dec 8 (EFE).- Japan’s Lower House on Thursday passed a bill to ban organizations from maliciously soliciting donations following the controversy over the collection methods of the Unification Church.
The bill seeks to ban organizations from “confusing” people into making donations through coercive tactics such as “stoking fear,” for example through statements or threats of a spiritual nature, a practice that includes so-called “spiritual sales.
The bill provides for prison terms of up to one year or fines of up to 1 million yen ($7,300) for members of groups that engage in these practices, and will allow the spouses and children of donors to cancel donations on their behalf.
Some lawyers involved in the defense of victims have expressed concern that the regulations are lax and hastily drawn up, and say it is insufficient to protect those affected.
One of the contentious points in the bill was how to deal with donations made by people who have been “brainwashed.”
Opposition parties and lawyers requested a clause be included that would allow the cancellation of donations and the punishment of organization members if payment was made under “brainwashing conditions,” but the government rejected it, saying that it would be difficult to legally determine such a state of mind.
Instead, a clause was included requiring groups “not to suppress the free will” of donors.
Faced with criticisms of insufficiency, Kishida said Thursday that the government will try to improve its consultations with victims so that the law is “more effective,” according to local news agency Kyodo.
After approval in the Lower House, the Upper House began to debate the regulations with a view to approving it during an extraordinary session on Saturday.
Although the bill has arisen after questioning the collection methods related to the Unification Church, the legislation will cover all organizations, not only those of a religious nature.
The Japanese branch of this sect has been in the media spotlight since former leader Shinzo Abe was shot dead in July by the son of a Unification Church member who blamed it for the bankruptcy of his family and believed Abe was a sympathizer.
The assassination drew scrutiny of the group, known for encouraging its followers to make large donations, and its ties to the Japanese political sphere, especially Kishida’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party. EFE