Tokyo, Oct 17 (EFE).- Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Monday ordered an investigation into the contentious Unification Church, the religious organization in the spotlight after the assassination of former leader Shinzo Abe.
The probe will be undertaken in the first application of a legal review of the regulations of religious organizations undertaken by Japan in 1996 after the sarin gas attack in the Tokyo subway by the Aum Shinrikyo (Supreme Truth) sect.
The Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, known in Japan as the Unification Church, has been in the spotlight since Abe was gunned down in July by a member’s son who held the organization responsible for his family’s bankruptcy and believed Abe to be connected to.
The assassination brought scrutiny on the group, known for encouraging its supporters to make large financial donations and its ties to Japan’s political sphere, especially the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which has significantly affected the Kishida Cabinet’s support ratings.
An internal investigation revealed that about half of the party’s lawmakers had some connection to the group or affiliated organizations.
Kishida had been reluctant to take this step due to fears of violating the country’s principle of religious freedom, but connections with the ruling party have raised concerns that the group may have tried to influence national politics.
Depending on the outcome of the investigation, the Unification Church could lose its status as a religious corporation, which would deprive it of tax benefits, although it could still operate as an entity.
The Unification Church was founded in 1954 in South Korea and generates controversy in Japan for its mass weddings and “spiritual sales,” in which it allegedly coerces its members to buy objects at exorbitant prices.
So far only two religious organizations have been dissolved by court order in Japan – Aum Shinrikyo and the Myokakuji temple group, which defrauded those who came to them for help by telling them they were possessed by evil spirits and then charging them large sums for exorcisms. EFE