Feb 20, 2024

Moriyama office still receives church-related magazine

February 20, 2024 

A local office of education minister Masahito Moriyama has continued to receive a monthly magazine from a Unification Church affiliate, sources said.

The Federation for World Peace has been mailing “Sekai Shiso” (Global thoughts) to Moriyama’s office in Kobe, his constituency, for many years free of charge, they said.

Moriyama, who was found to have received a letter of endorsement from the group during a Lower House election in 2021, has emphasized that he already severed ties with the organization.

The periodical, published for group members, costs 800 yen ($5) per copy.

It typically carries the messages of Sun Myung Moon, the deceased founder of the Unification Church, now formally called the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification.

The Federation for World Peace is a friendship organization of the Unification Church.

Moriyama said the magazine has been unilaterally sent to his office and it is not something that his side requested.

“I do not look through each and every copy,” he told a news conference on Feb. 20.

He also reiterated his intention to stay on as education minister, who has jurisdiction over religious corporations.

“I have done nothing shameful,” he said. “I want to fulfill my responsibilities.”

Sources said the Federation for World Peace has received multiple requests to stop sending the magazine since the shooting death of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in July 2022.

The killing turned the spotlight on the close ties between the Unification Church and politicians of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, including Abe.

A former LDP Lower House member, who had received the magazine for free, said it stopped arriving after he told the group he wanted to cut off all ties following the shooting.

But Moriyama’s side has not indicated such an intention, and the January issue was sent to his office, the sources said.

The Hyogo prefectural federation of the Federation for World Peace said it has presented the magazine to Moriyama in hopes that it will help him study policies and analyze political situations in and outside Japan.

Eito Suzuki, a journalist who covered issues surrounding the Unification Church for years, said “Sekai Shiso” strongly reflects the organization’s thoughts.

If Moriyama still receives the magazine, “one cannot help but harbor suspicions that he has such deep connections that he cannot even decline to receive it or that he intends to restore the connections once the heat dies down,” he said.

Suzuki said Moriyama’s case underlined the lenient self-inspections that the LDP conducted concerning its lawmakers’ ties with the Unification Church.

He said third parties should be brought in for an independent investigation if the LDP is seriously trying to break away from the religious organization.

According to the LDP’s inspection results announced in September 2022, Moriyama only said he had attended a meeting of a church-related organization and given a speech.

In recent weeks, he repeatedly told the Diet that he has no clear recollections about his ties with the Federation for World Peace.

The main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan submitted a no-confidence motion against Moriyama to the Lower House on Feb. 19.

But Prime Minister Fumio Kishida indicated that he will retain his education minister.

“Setting past connections aside, he has no relationship with the organization in question at present,” Kishida told reporters on Feb. 19.

The no-confidence motion was voted down by the LDP and other parties at a Lower House plenary session on Feb. 20.

While the Japanese Communist Party and the Democratic Party for the People supported the motion, Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party) opposed it.

The education ministry sought a court order to dissolve the Unification Church in October, a month after Moriyama was appointed education minister.

The Tokyo District Court is scheduled to hear what both sides have to say on Feb. 22.

“It will be impossible for a fair hearing to proceed without raising public suspicions,” the CDP said in the no-confidence motion.

According to an Asahi Shimbun nationwide telephone survey conducted on Feb. 17-18, 66 percent of respondents said Moriyama should resign as education minister, compared with 21 percent who said he does not have to step down.

Seventy-six percent of respondents do not approve of Kishida’s handling of issues between the Unification Church and politicians, while 13 percent approve of his responses, according to the survey.

(This article was written by Nobuya Sawa, a senior staff writer, and Yosuke Takashima.)


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