Church victim relief bill to ban loan-based donations

The bill to help victims of religious groups such as the Unification Church contains a provision ban donations borrowed money or when the funds are obtained by the sale of the family home.

The step is in response to horror stories of children of Unification Church members who lived in abject poverty due to 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 officially known as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification.

The bill was presented on November 18 by the Consumer Agency to civil servants at the general secretary level of six major political parties.

In addition, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s cabinet on the same day approved a bill to revise the Consumer Contracts Law and the National Center for Consumer Affairs Law of Japan to strengthen measures to deal with to shady “spiritual selling” techniques that prey on the fears of churchgoers.

The administration is seeking to push through all the measures in the current Diet session.

However, opposition lawmakers pushed for tougher measures, and ruling Liberal Democratic Party officials were already conceding that the extraordinary session would likely have to be extended beyond its scheduled end on Dec. 10.

The opposition wants a provision that limits donations that could be made to religious organizations.

But the coalition’s junior partner, the Komeito, remains opposed to setting a ceiling because its main supporter, the Soka Gakkai, is a religious organization.

Komeito officials presented a compromise proposal to ban donations of funds acquired through the sale of houses and buildings.

The legislation also includes provisions allowing dependent children and spouses to rescind donations made to the church by family members to preserve their right to be supported by the parent or spouse.

The proposal sets out six examples of acts of soliciting donations that would be prohibited, such as demanding donations or purchases to ward off bad luck or misfortune, or refusing to let a potential donor go home.

The provision allowing children and a spouse to cancel donations was included due to concerns that members brainwashed by a religious organization were unlikely to realize their actions were causing financial hardship to family members. and would not seek to rescind the donations themselves.

The legislation would also strengthen the power of administrative agencies to issue recommendations or orders to companies found guilty of unlawful solicitations on multiple occasions. Criminal penalties would be imposed on companies that ignored the orders.

(This article was written by Mihoko Terada and Hiroki Koizumi.)

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