Japan’s House of Councillors Saturday passed a law to tighten restrictions on the solicitation of donations by religious and secular groups. The legislation is intended to prevent Japan’s controversial Unification Church, or the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, from using emotional manipulation to garner donations.Under the law, organizations also cannot ask potential benefactors to sell real estate or other assets in order to donate. Violators face up to one year in prison or a fine of up to 1 million yen. The House of Representatives, the lower chamber of Japan’s parliament, passed the law on December 8. The bill will take effect 2o days after passage.In a statement, the National Network of Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales argued that the bill is inadequate to address the harms of the Unification Church. The group noted that the bill does not prohibit donations to individual Church members, and individuals may continue to solicit donations illegally if the Church loses its legal status. The organization also believes the government must restrict and regulate the Unification Church’s missionary activities.According to regional news outlets, Japanese Minister for Consumer Affairs Taro Kono told the House of Councillors that he considers the Unification Church a cult, and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has acknowledged that the group is problematic.Public attention became focused on the Unification Churc’s ties to Japan’s governing Liberal Democratic Party after former leader Shinzo Abe was assissinated in July.
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