The Japan News by The Yomiuri Shimbun
Web of political ties to religious group emerges
Various ways in which politicians have received election support from the religious group widely known as the Uni cation Church have come to light in the wake of the fatal shooting of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Some politicians are reviewing their ties to the group, which has engaged in activities that provoke concern in society, such as a “spiritual sales” method to cajole its followers into buying expensive items.
“I received various kinds of assistance from individual volunteers during election campaigning,” Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said at a press conference on July 29, explaining his relationship with the group, which is now o cially called the Family Federation for World Peace and Uni cation.
Kishi, Abe’s younger brother, said he had some volunteers linked to the group working for him to make phone calls to voters to ask for their support during the House of Representatives election campaign.
Kishi said he “thought at the time there was no problem,” but will “carefully examine whether that was the right thing to do.”
In 1968, Uni cation Church founder Sun Myung Moon (1920-2012) launched an anti-communist political organization called the International Federation for Victory over Communism. Since that time, the church is said to have built relationships with conservative politicians, mainly from the LDP, including former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, the grandfather of Abe and Nobuo Kishi.
ere are many LDP Diet members among the politicians whose relationships with the church have recently come to light.
Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Minister Shinsuke Suematsu said that people linked to the group had bought tickets for his political fund-raising parties in 2020 and 2021. e tickets cost a total of ¥40,000.
In 2016, a political party chapter headed by Hakubun Shimomura, former education minister, also received a ¥60,000 donation from an organization a liated with the group.
Opposition parties are no exception. Democratic Party for the People leader Yuichiro Tamaki received donations totaling ¥30,000 in 2016 from a former president of an organization a liated with the group. Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Innovation Party) head Ichiro Matsui attended a meeting of an organization a liated with the group about 20 years ago.
Why have politicians built ties with the group? Many in the political world say it is for election purposes.
Yoshiyuki Inoue, an LDP member of the House of Councillors, became a “supporting member” of the group shortly before o cial campaigning kicked o for the upper house election in July, in which he was reelected.
It was reported that he became a supporting member because his campaign pledges were in line with the group’s concepts. One of his secretaries told e Yomiuri Shimbun that Inoue did so in order to receive support in the election.
Many politicians were also found to have sent congratulatory messages for events linked to the group.
“ere are many organizations whose actual status remains unclear, but if you do nothing when asked to attend an event, you’ll make them your enemies in the election. at’s why I used to send congratulatory messages,” a former lower house member recalled, speaking to e Yomiuri Shimbun.
Local leaders have also received support from the group. Toyama Gov. Hachiro Nitta admitted that he had received support from the group in the 2020 gubernatorial election in which he was rst elected.
“ey took a grassroots approach in the election campaign, and I was grateful for that at the time,” said Nitta.
Meanwhile, the group is also believed to have taken advantage of its connections with politicians.
A former follower of the group said that he was repeatedly shown pictures of Moon shaking hands with politicians.
Since the 1980s, the group has used its spiritual sales method to cajole people into buying expensive goods, such as pots and personal seals, by telling them that they are cursed by their ancestors to fuel their anxiety.
e group’s mass weddings in which total strangers are made into couples have also emerged as a social problem.
Even sending a congratulatory message to an event related to the group means “support” to it, and the group could use such gestures by politicians for publicity, according to Hokkaido University Prof. Yoshihide Sakurai.
“For voters, the support groups of each politician are important information in choosing who to vote for, so politicians should clearly indicate from which groups they receive support,” said the expert in the sociology of religion.
LDP’S FUKUDA SEES NO PROBLEM
A senior member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party on July 29 said he had no idea what the problem was regarding the connections between LDP Diet members and the religious group widely known as the Uni cation Church.
“If the party conducted politics under the systematic and strong in uence of the group, it might be a problem. However, there is no such thing at all,” LDP General Council Chairperson Tatsuo Fukuda said at a press conference. “erefore, I’m not quite sure what the problem is.” (July 31)
PM URGES LAWMAKERS TO EXPLAIN
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida urged fellow Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers to thoroughly explain any ties with the religious group widely known as the Uni cation Church. (Aug. 2)