Minister denies seeking campaign support from ex-Unification Church affiliate

Japan's education minister Moriyama Masahito has denied seeking election campaign support from an organization related to the religious group formerly called the Unification Church.

The Asahi Shimbun newspaper has reported that Moriyama received a letter of recommendation from the organization for the 2021 Lower House election. It said the organization assisted his campaign.

Moriyama told a Diet session on Tuesday that he may have received the letter if the newspaper's photo of him holding the document actually exists.

But he said he has reconfirmed with his office that it did not ask the organization in question for support in past elections.

He added that no such activity reports have been found at his office.

Moriyama said he has severed all ties with the former Unification Church, and will continue to deal with legal matters related to the group.

During the Diet session, Prime Minister Kishida Fumio dismissed calls by the opposition to replace Moriyama. He said he wants the minister to continue carrying out his duties. Moriyama also indicated that he won't step down.

Kishida said he plans to remind all Cabinet ministers that they should check their past and present connections with the former Unification Church and its affiliates, and explain any that come to light.

Kishida said he will make sure that all links with the religious group will be severed into the future.

Under Moriyama, the education and culture ministry requested a court order last October to revoke the group's status as a religious corporation.

The move followed allegations that the group solicited large donations from its followers, and engaged in dubious sales practices.