The president of the Japan branch of the religious group widely known as the Unification Church said Wednesday that the organization “has never conducted spiritual sales, neither in the past nor at present.”
So-called spiritual sales cajole people into buying goods by claiming they have supernatural benefits.
Speaking at a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo, Tomihiro Tanaka also said the number of cases pending trial over donations and other issues had decreased from 78 in 1998 to five this year.
In contrast, the National Network of Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales, which works to help people negatively impacted by the religious group, said it had dealt with 564 cases in the five years through last year and that the problem was ongoing.
“The president’s statement is out of touch with the actual situation and demonstrates a lack of sincerity over the damage caused,” said Masaki Kito, one of the network’s lawyers.
Spiritual sales related to the Unification Church first came to public attention in the 1980s, and some followers of the religious group — now officially called the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification — have been arrested in connection with the practice.
On the issue of the shooting death of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Tanaka said that he “takes very seriously” reports that the suspect’s motive was a grudge against the group and he apologized for the first time since the incident, saying, “I deeply apologize for the trouble we’ve caused to society.”
He also said: “We’ve stepped forward with our comrades in confronting communism and defending democracy. As a religious organization, our stance is not to support one particular party.”