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Unification Church's Japan HQ tried to 'mediate' adoptions among followers: probe

Former second-generation followers of the Unification Church, Sayuri Ogawa and Shoko Takeda, pictured in the center and on the left, respectively, are seen during a session discussing the issue of suspected adoption arrangements by the religious group, in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward on Nov. 16, 2022. (Mainichi/Kengo Miura)

TOKYO -- The Unification Church headquarters in Japan may have mediated adoptions among followers, it emerged from passages in a pamphlet edited by the group and issued to devotees in October 2003.

    The pamphlet, edited by the then Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity, now formally known as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, indicated the stance that the headquarters' family bureau will "mediate" adoptions among followers, and aim for the establishment of many adoptions. Though the group's current practices are unknown, it came to light that it may have been engaging in organizational efforts to arrange adoptions at the time the pamphlet was published.

    Furthermore, it was also revealed that a passage of a revised August 2022 edition of a book written by a Unification Church-affiliated individual and first published in March 2015 called on families with followers opting for adoption to consult with the family bureau chief of the church they belong to. This showed that the group was trying to be actively involved in the establishment of adoptions among followers, even as of late.

    On Nov. 22, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare sent to the religious group a document under the joint signature of itself and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, with questions regarding the nature of its mediation and other matters regarding the adoption issue, and demanded responses by Dec. 5. If the group had been repetitively mediating adoptions "for business purposes" without being granted a business permit, this infringes against the adoption mediation law, making the Unification Church applicable for a possible dissolution order. Thus, the issue of adoptions among followers is a focal point of the ongoing probe.

    A pamphlet edited by the Unification Church contains a passage mentioning its policy to "mediate" adoptions among followers. (Mainichi)

    The remarks of late Unification Church founder Sun Myung Moon and others regarding "childbirth, pregnancy, and adoption" were compiled into the pamphlet, and published in October 2003 by Unification Church-affiliated publisher Kogensha. While the book itself is already out of print, the Mainichi Shimbun confirmed the relevant quotes in the pamphlet that contains around 70 pages, which was part of the National Diet Library collection in Tokyo.

    Of all four chapters, chapter three, titled "The benefits of adoption," pointed out the necessity for adoption among followers, and other matters, and explained the significance of adoptions for Unification Church believers, as well as the mindset for families who adopt out or adopt in children.

    In addition, it raised the specific nature of adoptions, such as "the assignment of maternity expenses," "basic rules on what kind of families should partake in adoptions," "how to report adoptions to the group's headquarters," "details on 'adoption ceremonies' held by the group," and "how to name adopted children."

    Chapter three contained a passage mentioning the mediatory role that the headquarters' family bureau played. It read, "If there is a family that desires to 'receive a child (for adoption),' or has decided it wants to 'offer a child (for adoption),' please contact the headquarters' family bureau. The headquarters' family bureau will act as a mediator and intends to make efforts to create as many adoptions as possible."

    In publications revised in recent years, there are no passages mentioning the group's mediatory role, but they suggest its attempts to be involved actively in the formation of adoptions.

    A book written by an individual affiliated with the Unification Church shows a passage calling on followers to consult with the family division chief of their church in the event that they are interested in adoption among followers. (Mainichi)

    The February 2017 revised edition of a handbook edited by the group's family education bureau and originally published in August 2014 reads, "If you arrive at an agreement (for adoption), you must report to the family education bureau, without exception."

    The August 2022 revised edition of another book penned by a Unification Church-affiliated individual and originally published in March 2015 also contains a similar passage reading, "If there is a family that desires to 'receive a child (for adoption),' or has decided it wants to 'offer a child (for adoption),' please consult with the family division chief of the church you belong to."

    All three publications provide the explanation that the adoption efforts began with the consent of Unification Church founder Moon and other parties. They also each include basic principles in accordance with the group's teachings on what kinds of families should partake in adoption together, and recommend adoptions by stating, "It is important to keep in mind the desire to offer your child."

    The three publications also stated that "before pregnancy is the most ideal time to make arrangements for adoptions, while a decision should be made before delivery at the latest," and set forth that child delivery expenses should be shouldered by the family accepting the child. The publications ask followers to submit an "adoption request form" with family photos to the group's headquarters when the adoption decision is made.

    (Japanese original by Takayuki Kanamori and Hiroyuki Tanaka, Digital News Center)

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