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Lawyers in Japan ask consumer centers not to inform Unification Church of consultations

Hiroshi Yamaguchi, center, and other members of the National Network of Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales warn of the Unification Church's request to consumer affairs centers, in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward on Sept. 6, 2022. (Mainichi/Shota Harumashi)

TOKYO -- Lawyers are calling on consumer affairs centers across Japan not to follow the Unification Church's request to inform the group when they receive consultations regarding trouble related to the religious group.

    The National Network of Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales, which is working on helping out people who have fallen victim to the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, better known by its former name, the Unification Church, revealed on Sept. 6 that it was urging consumer affairs centers not to comply with the religious group's request.

    According to the group of lawyers, since late August, local Unification Church members have either visited or called at least eight consumer affairs centers in the country, including in the city of Nagoya and the prefectures of Osaka and Hiroshima, asking them to contact the church "in order to respond to consultations sincerely." The lawyers on Sept. 1 asked the National Consumer Affairs Center of Japan, an independent administrative body overseen by the Consumer Affairs Agency, to thoroughly instruct local consumer affairs centers nationwide to reject such requests.

    The lawyer network's secretary-general Yasuo Kawai said, "The religious group probably wants to directly contact those who make consultations. We suspect that they are attempting to solve issues themselves without having a public institution or lawyer involved." In the majority of cases in which former followers demand the church return donations they made to the group, it reportedly pays back smaller amounts than the actual donations and asks the former followers to sign agreements renouncing the right to claim the remaining amounts. Kawai pointed out that the church "is trying to settle these cases with a minimal amount of money and not have reports of damages come to light."

    The group of lawyers is urging the church's former followers who have suffered damages to avoid negotiating with the church by themselves and to consult lawyers.

    (Japanese original by Shota Harumashi, Tokyo City News Department)

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