Japan's culture ministry mulls seeking court order to fine ex-Unification Church

NHK has learned that Japan's culture ministry is considering seeking a court order to fine the religious group widely known as the Unification Church for failing to reply appropriately to the ministry's inquiries.

Ministry officials are looking into the organization's alleged dubious marketing practices and solicitations of large donations from its followers.

They plan to consider requesting a court order to disband it as a religious corporation if they confirm facts that warrant its disbandment. The ministry has exercised legal authority on seven occasions to inquire into the organization.

The Religious Corporations Act says that if a corporation refuses to reply to inquiries by authorities or makes false statements, its representative official will be fined up to 100,000 yen, or about 680 dollars.

The ministry says it has issued more than 600 queries to the group, covering matters including organizational management, property and income, and donations. But sources say the group refused to answer some of the questions, citing the freedom of religion and other justifications.

The ministry is now considering asking the Tokyo District Court to fine the group.

It would be the first time the government has sought to ask for a fine in connection with its legal authority to question a religious corporation. The group can appeal a court decision to impose a fine.