The Positive Impact of “Spiritual” Artifacts: Satisfaction from Purchasers in UC Raises Eyebrows

Tokyo, Japan – Many individuals who made high-priced purchases of “spiritual” artifacts from members of the Unification Church (UC) remain satisfied with their acquisitions, contrary to public perception. The Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (FFWPU), formerly known as the UC, has often accommodated refund requests from donors who experienced a loss of faith or pressure from their families. However, this inherent generosity has become a double-edged sword, inviting criticism and legal action.

The anti-cult National Network of Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales (NNLASS) has been accused of fabricating new “victims” by instigating individuals to seek refunds or file lawsuits against the FFWPU. There are two categories of plaintiffs: former believers who were influenced by NNLASS lawyers promising an easy recovery of their donations, and those who were victims of deprogramming and later convinced to sue by their families.

Interestingly, the FFWPU finds it shocking that their systematic solicitation of donations is being used as grounds for a dissolution order. Critics argue that this practice deviates significantly from the purpose of a religious organization, as outlined in Article 81, Paragraph 1 of the Religious Corporations Act. However, donations are essential for religious groups to spread their teachings, conduct rituals, and educate believers. The FFWPU maintains that the funds raised are not for financial gain but primarily support overseas missionary activities and teaching expenses.

It is vital to note that unlike the Myokaku-ji case, where dissolution was granted due to leaders’ involvement in criminal cases, there have been no criminal charges or recognized cases of fraud or coercion against the FFWPU. Soliciting donations for religious purposes should be acceptable as long as it is voluntary and does not involve intimidation. The FFWPU argues that their donation practices align with these principles, and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology’s conclusion fails to comprehend the nature of religion.

To gain a better perspective, I interviewed several followers who have made significant donations to the FFWPU. Michiko Tsuji, a 73-year-old resident of Tokyo, joined the UC in 1983. She recalled purchasing a set of three couples of seals for 240,000 yen, which she considers a mysterious guidance. Over the past four decades, Tsuji and her husband have donated a total of 100 million yen. For her, donations are not compulsory but rather a natural response to the teachings of Reverend Sun Myung Moon and the desire to contribute to world peace and make God and True Parents happy.

However, the FFWPU acknowledges that some believers, in their zeal to achieve grand objectives, have neglected their families and become emotionally distant. This self-reflection calls for a careful balance between devotion to the organization and personal responsibilities.

Critics may continue to question the FFWPU’s donation practices, but it is crucial to understand the deep spiritual convictions and motivations that drive these donors. As long as there is no evidence of coercion or exploitation, the right to freely contribute to a religious cause should be respected. The ongoing legal battle over the dissolution order will ultimately determine the extent to which religious organizations can solicit and manage donations in Japan.