Unification Church’s ties to lawmakers emerge as major political issue

The Unification Church’s ties to Japanese lawmakers have become a major political issue ahead of a special session of parliament in the fall, following the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the parties of opposition seeking to probe these links, including within their own ranks.

Abe’s attacker said he resented the religious group because his mother’s large donations to him had ruined his family, and he believed Abe was connected to the group, according to investigative sources.

The veteran lawmaker had sent a video message to a related group rally held in September, and the suspect said he watched it on the internet, the sources said.

File photo taken in November 2006 shows Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (right) waving to crowds in the streets of Tokyo’s Shibuya, during his first term as prime minister. Abe was accompanied by his close assistant Yoshiyuki Inoue (L). (Kyodo)

The assassination of Japan’s longest-serving prime minister has shed new light on the church’s involvement in politics, decades after the group founded by a staunch anti-Communist widely known for mass weddings attracted attention to its so-called spiritual sales, in which people were persuaded to buy jars and other items at exorbitant prices.

Sun Myung Moon, the founder of the Unification Church, also founded the International Federation for the Victory over Communism, a political group, in Japan in 1968.

Many Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers are said to have ties to the church. It remains to be seen, however, what the ruling party intends to do about it.

Some LDP lawmakers have begun disclosing their ties to the church, officially known as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification.

A flower stand is pictured near the scene of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s assassination in Nara July 14, 2022. Abe was shot dead on July 8 during an election campaign speech. (Kyōdo) == Kyōdo

Yoshiyuki Inoue, an LDP upper house lawmaker who was just elected this month, said he was an informal church member, but not a religious follower. Inoue was Abe’s political affairs secretary during his first term as prime minister from 2006 to 2007.

In a statement to Kyodo News, Inoue said he became an informal member because the group endorsed its legislative policies. He denied receiving or making donations, or paying membership fees, or being asked to do so.

Photo taken on June 2, 2022 shows Yoshiyuki Inoue, a member of the Upper House of the Liberal Democratic Party. (Kyodo)

Education Minister Shinsuke Suematsu, also a member of the LDP House of Councillors, admitted on Friday that two people from the church bought tickets for his fundraising parties between 2020 and 2021. He denied doing so. favors at church or getting help during election campaigns.

The opposition has begun efforts to investigate the extent of ties between the church and lawmakers.

The Japan Innovation Party plans to ask its lawmakers if they are connected and to disclose its findings, following reports that one of its lawmakers had ties to the church.

The People’s Democratic Party says it may need to take action if problems are discovered internally. Its leader, Yuichiro Tamaki, acknowledged receiving a donation from a former president of Sekai Nippo, a publication known to have close ties to the Unification Church.

The Japanese Communist Party on Thursday held the first meeting of a team of investigators set up to investigate lawmakers’ ties to the church. Akira Koike, head of its secretariat, pledged to pursue the case in parliament to find out cases of “collusion”.

The main opposition party, the Democratic Constitutional Party of Japan, will mainly look at possible damage caused by the group and its activities.

Followers of the Unification Church have been arrested in Japan and given court orders in connection with money illegally obtained from people through the use of threats, including the invocation of “ancestral karma”.

The National Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales Network (Japan) was established in 1987 to help victims of spiritual sales. According to lawyers, these sales typically involve Unification Church followers who randomly approach people on the street and offer free divinations without identifying themselves as members of the Church. Later, they urge their targets to purchase expensive items, often sigils, to “get rid of bad karma” created by their ancestors.

The mother of Tetsuya Yamagami, accused of murdering Abe, has donated 100 million yen ($735,000) to the church. She said she made donations “to comfort the spirits of family members,” according to Yamagami’s uncle.

It is unclear whether the PLD will follow opposition parties and launch an internal investigation into links with the religious group, often identified as a “sect” in the United States and Europe.

‘We have to behave,’ Hakubun Shimomura, acting co-chairman of Abe’s party faction and former chairman of the LDP’s Policy Research Council, told reporters of the party’s ties to the church. .

Former defense minister Tomomi Inada, a member of the LDP’s lower house, said she made remarks at a rally by a church-linked group in 2009, but denied receiving support from the church over disagreements with it over the rights of sexual minorities.

Japan’s Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Shinsuke Suematsu arrives at the Prime Minister’s Office in Tokyo on October 4, 2021, ahead of his attestation ceremony at the Imperial Palace. (Kyōdo) == Kyōdo

Iwate Governor Takuya Tasso recently criticized the LDP, saying the party and its lawmakers received support in the elections from groups linked to the church.

“A specific religious group and its related groups have collected outrageous amounts of donations and are affecting election results and government policies,” Tasso, himself a former House of Representatives lawmaker, told a news conference. the 15th of July.

There are similarities between the proposals made by the anti-communist group launched by Moon and the political philosophy of Abe and other conservative LDP members. Both have pushed for the revision of the Constitution and the strengthening of Japan’s defense capabilities, and both oppose the legalization of same-sex marriage.

In the video message to the Universal Peace Federation, a non-governmental group founded in New York in 2005 by Moon and his wife, Hak Ja Han Moon, the church’s current leader, Abe expressed his “respect” for Han Moon’s efforts toward peaceful unification. of the Korean Peninsula.

The slain former leader also said, “Beware of movements that develop skewed values ​​as social revolutionary movements,” likely referring to movements to legalize same-sex marriage.

When asked if the church had made political donations to the LDP, Tomihiro Tanaka, head of the church’s Japanese branch, told reporters on July 11 that “no money was transferred from the LDP to that entity, or from that entity to the LDP”.

Related coverage:

Abe shooter will undergo mental competency test before being charged

Abe striker tried to draw attention to church: analysts

Unification Church founder was close to Abe’s grandfather: former president

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