Japan govt begins Unification Church probe amid anger over ties with ruling party

Japan’s government on Tuesday launched a probe into the Unification Church, the first step in a process that could strip the group of its legal status amid public anger over its links to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s ruling party.

The government will give the church until Dec 9 to answer questions about its finances and organisation, Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Keiko Nagaoka told a regular news conference.

Once the government investigation is over it will be up to a court to decide whether to remove the Unification Church’s legal standing and with it the tax exemptions that registered religious organisations enjoy in Japan.

Widespread links between the church and lawmakers in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) came to light after former premier Shinzo Abe was shot and killed during an election campaign in July.

The suspect in Abe’s assassination, Tetsuya Yamagami, bore a grudge against the church – an organisation known for its mass weddings and which critics call a cult – alleging it impoverished his family and blamed Abe for promoting it.