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Moonies Offer To Pay Japanese Ex-Followers Almost Half Of What They Scammed Them Out Of
Mind you, it was not out of the goodness of their hearts.
The Unification Church (aka The Moonies) is considering offering to compensate former followers who say they were scared into giving the church massive donations that they could not actually afford to give. Tomihiro Tanaka, president of the Japan branch, is expected to make the announcement on Tuesday, which will mark the first time he has issued any kind of apology to these ex-followers.
This comes in response to the Japanese government filing a request to the Tokyo District Court last month to dissolve the church, best known in the United States for their mass weddings, ownership of The Washington Times, and weirdly cozy relationship with (mostly Republican) legislators. Among other infractions, the Japanese government has accused the church of swindling some 1,550 former members out of about ¥20.4 billion in total.
Dissolution would mean that the church would lose its tax exempt status in the country and would be required to liquidate its assets.
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“The sect has continuously and over a long period of time restricted the free decision-making of many of its followers,” Masahito Moriyama, Japan’s minister in charge of education, culture, sports, science, and technology, said at the time, adding that members would “make donations and purchase goods under conditions that prevented them from making normal decisions, thereby inflicting substantial damage and disturbing peace and tranquillity in life.”
Via Japan News:
If the dissolution order is issued, the group’s assets would be managed by a court-appointed liquidator, and there have been concerns that the group might conceal assets before that time.
The sources said the group is considering depositing between ¥6 billion and ¥10 billion with the government. If a dissolution order is issued, the money would be used to compensate victims. If it is not issued, the money is expected to be returned to the Unification Church.
The group is apparently seeking to dispel public concerns about asset concealment and to emphasize its intention to reform itself.
The dissolution order came as part of the response to the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last year.
Abe was killed while speaking at a campaign event for the conservative Liberal Democratic Party by Tetsuya Yamagami, a man who was angry at the Unification Church and at Abe for his ties to it, going all the way back to his grandfather.
Yamagami’s mother had been a member and had been driven into bankruptcy making donations to the church — giving them 100 million yen (about $750,000), land she inherited from her father, and the house she and her three children lived in. The family frequently went without food or electricity because the Unification Church just really, really needed that money. For reasons.
Following the assassination and the fact that many Japanese citizens felt more sympathy with Yamagami than anger, the Japanese government began to investigate the cult and its ties to conservative lawmakers. The Liberal Democratic Party themselves found that “180 lawmakers had had some interaction with the church, ranging from giving speeches at its meetings to receiving organized support from it during elections.” Tabloid newspaper Nikkan Gendai determined that 10 of 20 members of the Fourth Abe Cabinet had ties as well.
The church was founded in the 1950s in Seoul, South Korea, by the late Reverend Sun Myung Moon, who believed he was the second coming of Jesus Christ (though he had enough money and hated communism enough to make Republican lawmakers look the other way about that blasphemy). Moon’s wife, Hak Ja Han, has led the church since his death in 2012.
His son, Sean Moon, leads World Peace and Unification Sanctuary Church, also known as Rod of Iron Ministries, a warring offshoot of the cult that is pretty much the same except he wears a crown of bullets and people carry AR-15s when he mass marries them. He and several other members of the church helped to organize the January 6 attack on the capitol building, and he’s also a rapper. He has nothing to do with any of this, but clearly I’m going to add him to my Google alerts.
While a rare occurrence, this won’t be the first time a religious group has been dissolved by court order in Japan. The Myokakuji temple group was dissolved for just straight up defrauding people all over the place, by selling them magical things that didn’t do any magic, doing “exorcisms,” and otherwise claiming powers they did not have.
“I think it was inevitable that our organization was forced to disband once it was discovered that we were pretending to have psychic abilities but actually didn’t,” the former second in command of the group told The Asahi Shimbun, while acknowledging that the order probably didn’t do too much to stop them.
Aum Shinrikyo, the apocalyptic cult best known for the 1995 Tokyo subway sarin attack, was also dissolved — and leader Shoko Asahara and others involved in the attack were executed in 2018. However, other members of the group have continued on culting, including Fumihiro Joyu, the former Aum Shinrikyo public relations manager (not a joke) who has since started his own allegedly non-criminal group, Hikari-no-wa (Circle of Rainbow Light). Joyu told The Asahi Shimbun that while the dissolution has increased the group’s tax burden, it hasn’t stopped them from doing what they do. The group, now known as Aleph, has also spread to other nations, most notably Russia and Montenegro.
That being said, literally anything that cuts into the Moonies’ funding and influence is good not just for Japan, but for the world at large.