A Church, Dissolved

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The Japanese government will ask a court to order the dissolution of the Unification Church over allegations that the fringe religious group’s activities led to the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Bloomberg reported.

The request comes more than a year after Abe’s assassination by Tetsuya Yamagami, who told police that he shot the former leader because of his connections to the religious organization, now known as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification.

He also accused the Church of bankrupting his family by taking excessive donations from his mother.

Abe’s assassination rocked Japan and prompted increased scrutiny over the South Korea-based religious group.

Last year, the government launched an investigation into the Church’s funding and recruitment tactics.

The Unification Church has longstanding links with Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party, but current Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has tried to distance himself from the group to repair his cabinet’s image and restore public support.

Currently, the organization faces a series of court judgments against it over fundraising methods, which include charging members millions of dollars for books and scriptures.

Officials and local media said a dissolution order came as a result of the Church failing to answer many of the questions posed by authorities during the probe. The Japanese Religious Corporations Act empowers the courts to dissolve religious groups found to substantially harm public welfare.

Meanwhile, the government is also considering a bill to allow the seizure of the group’s assets to ensure funds are available for compensating victims.

The Church countered that it has implemented reforms aimed at ensuring compliance and transparency, saying it should not be subject to dissolution.

If the order goes forward, it would mark the third dissolution of a religious organization in Japan since World War II, which would lead to the Church losing its religious status and associated tax benefits.

In the past, the Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult was targeted for dissolution following its poison gas attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995. Another group, the Myokakuji Temple, was ordered to disband after it came under suspicion of defrauding followers.

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