Japan prepares bills to help those affected by religious group sales


The Japanese government on Friday prepared a pair of bills aimed at overhauling consumer contract laws to help those financially affected by questionable sales practices by the Unification Church and other religious organizations. .

The government is also planning separate legislation to impose a criminal penalty if religious organizations maliciously solicit donations and is expected to introduce it to ruling and opposition parties soon, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party said.

File photo taken in September 2022 shows the name of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification in a building housing the Unification Church in Tokyo. (Kyodo)

The planned legal overhauls come as the Unification Church’s notorious practices have increasingly come under the spotlight, with some members claiming they have been duped into making financially ruinous donations.

The group is also known for its “spiritual sales”, in which people are coerced into buying vases and other items at exorbitant prices through threats, such as invoking “ancestral karma”. negative.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, whose approval ratings have plummeted in part due to his government’s handling of issues surrounding the Unification Church, said the government intended to submit the draft law during the current parliamentary session until 10 December.

Both bills would revise existing laws – the Consumer Contracts Act and the National Consumer Center Act.

In revising the Consumer Contracts Act, the government plans to give consumers 10 years to rescind contracts made for spiritual sales, double the current five-year term.

It is also considering allowing victims of spiritual sales to rescind contracts signed under duress following threats to the lives and property of their family members.

Revisions to the Consumer Centers Act would allow the government to release the names of organizations engaging in malicious practices, where necessary to protect consumers from them.

The Unification Church, founded by a staunch anti-Communist in South Korea in 1954, is now officially called the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno (L) and others attend a Cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Tokyo on November 18, 2022. (Kyodo)

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