【Editorial】 Calls for Moriyama’s Resignation-The Issue Lies in Lies, Not Election Cooperation with the Church

February 15, 2024 [Original]

It has been reported in the media that Masahito Moriyama, Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, has received election support from the Unification Church (now known as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, or FFWPU), and has connections with this religious group and its affiliated organizations. Opposition parties are calling for Moriyama’s resignation or dismissal from his position as the Minister, who filed a dissolution request for the FFWPU. However, the problem lies not in election cooperation or meetings with members of the religious group, but in the lies used to conceal these actions.

Regarding the interactions between the Family Federation and affiliated organizations and politicians, following the July 2022 shooting incident involving former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the media reported critically on these “connections,” prompting opposition parties to disclose the “connections” of their members and urge the Liberal Democratic Party to investigate and disclose its own “connections.”

After it was reported that the man arrested for the attack on Mr. Abe had targeted him during a campaign speech for the Upper House election due to resentment over his mother’s substantial donations to the Family Federation, creating shockwaves of an attempted assassination of a former prime minister, attention shifted to former believers who had experienced troubles with the organization’s donations. This situation has fostered a fear among politicians of image damage due to “connections.”

However, the disclosed “connections” are limited to attending greetings at events hosted by affiliated organizations, sending congratulatory messages, paying participation fees, and subscribing to publications. Furthermore, there have been repeated critical reports as if the election support from believers of the organization and staff of affiliated organizations were problematic, but it has been argued that such activities, which have been conducted since the 1960s, are legally sound and not new facts.

The contradiction of the Kishida administration, which went so far as to dismiss a minister as evidence of “severing ties,” has come back to haunt the administration this year. The relationships that have been supported in national and major local elections for over half a century should be viewed as nothing but the exercise of the people’s sovereignty, namely the right to participate in politics guaranteed by the constitution, and not as illegal. However, the Kishida administration considered the relationships as criminal and severed them.

As a result, numerous photos of meetings between Mr. Kishida, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi, Mr. Moriyama, and members of the religious group have been reported in major newspapers, weekly magazines, and on television, raising suspicions. Mr. Moriyama appears to have had a firm relationship, as evidenced by his inclusion in commemorative photos alongside large audiences at events held in his local electoral district. While initially admitting during parliamentary debates that he vaguely recalled the meetings under opposition parties’ questioning, he later denied any recollection, stating that he did not remember and claiming he was not able to know whether he had received election support.

Politicians from various parties, including the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), are constantly being arrested due to scandals. The recent arrests in connection with the “slush fund” issue, where revenues from LDP faction parties were not fully disclosed in political funding reports, are just another example.

The wrongdoing of these politicians is a far more serious issue than minor “connections” with members of the religious group. However, the response of the Kishida administration to these past “connections” has been excessive, to the point of dismissing ministers for attending events organized by affiliated groups involving participation of dignitaries from various countries. The pinnacle of this was arguably the excessive action of requesting the dissolution of the religious group through hasty interpretation changes to the Religious Corporations Act.

It’s only natural in a sense that Mr. Moriyama hasn’t resigned as Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, as there’s no illegality in the church’s election support. Rather, it’s the lie of having “no” election cooperation that could be considered as viewing the uncomfortable church through the lens of discrimination.

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