Cult leader rapes little girls under Christian cloak

Mainichi Daily News/April 15, 2005
By Ryann Connell

"He didn't just touch them, he repeatedly raped several of the little elementary school girls. I've heard that there were cases when there would be several little girls sleeping in his office at the same time and he would grab one of them and rape her without waking any of the others. The other girls would be awake, but pretend to be asleep," Chiemi Saga, lawyer for a group of alleged rape victims, tells Shukan Josei (4/26).

The "he" Saga refers to is Tamotsu Kin, the 61-year-old chief reverend of a Kyoto Prefecture-based Christian cult called Seishin Chuo Kyokai. He was arrested April 6 for raping one of his 12-year-old followers, though he denies the allegations, more of which have popped up since he was taken into custody.

"At first, the children had no idea what he was doing to them. But they loved the reverend and put up with what he was putting them through. The more he did it, though, the more they grew to hate it. But there was nobody there that they could tell," lawyer Saga says.

A reporter covering the case that has shocked Japan in the same way clerical rapists have shocked the West in recent years says that the religious man was an expert at brainwashing his followers.

"Kin repeatedly told cultists that he was 'God's Chosen One.' He referred to sex as 'God's Benediction' and, 'An act to test the heart of believers,' condemning them to 'Hell and damnation' if they refused to abide by his will," the reporter says. "Basically what he was doing was controlling their minds."

Regular followers of the Christian church began to notice something was amiss in about October last year as a little girl who was one of Kin's alleged victims began sending e-mail to friends and cult leaders asking them for advice on how to avoid further unwanted ministrations from the man of the cloak. When her correspondence was revealed to the brethren, about 170 members quit the cult immediately.

Kin, however, strongly denied the girl's accusations. Even as the officers who arrested him were dragging him into a police van, the reverend screamed, "The little girl is lying."

As many outlets have been quick to point out, Kin was an ethnic Korean. But he was born and bred in Japan, spending his early years in Kyoto under the strong influence of his deeply faithful Christian mother. He married, used the Japanese surname Nagata, and worked as a regular employee at an ordinary company.

However, God's calling remained strong and eventually won out. At age 38, he headed to his ancestral homeland and eventually graduated from university. He returned to Japan in 1986 and began running his Christian cult from his home in the suburbs of Kyoto. The following year, his cult was incorporated as a religious foundation, exempting it from tax. He borrowed heavily and bought land in the Kyoto Prefecture bed town of Yawata, where at the cusp of the millennium he set up what was to become the headquarters of his Seishin Chuo Kyokai cult. The church's homepage noted it had 10 branches inside Japan and further offshoots in foreign lands such as South Korea, the United States, Canada, Russia and New Zealand. It has 1,200 officially registered members, but by the time of Kin's arrest, the ranks had dropped to around 100.

"The suspect has three children of his own, but divorced his wife about two years ago," a reporter covering the case says. "I've heard the reason for the split came about because of his peculiar sexual proclivities."

Kin apparently targeted Friday nights for alleged sex attacks he is supposed to have called his "religious ceremonies."

"The church had Friday night stay overs in preparation for the Saturday Sabbath. These were seen as a chance for the reverend to get closer to his children followers and their parents," lawyer Saga says. "Nearly all of the violations occurred during these stay overs."

Nobody is quite sure of how many women and girls Kin is purported to have had his way with.

"At the moment, we have officially found less than 10 people who claim to be his victims. He started out working on adult women, then gradually looked for somebody younger. He turned first to university students, then high school girls, followed by junior high school girls and, finally, a few years ago, girls in the upper grades of elementary school," Hisoka Murakami, reverend at the Kyoto Assembly of God and an expert on religious cults, says. "I don't think the final number of victims will fall below 20."

Some people associated with the case have suggested that the Christian leader could have raped as many as 50 people, though their claims are unfounded.

Christians across Japan have been shattered by the case, but none more so than the parents of Kin's alleged victims.

"Doctors heal the body. Clerics are supposed to heal the mind. But this cleric who was supposed to help people did something he should never have done. No sin is greater," the parent of one of Kin's alleged victims tells Shukan Josei. "To sate his own lust, and threaten and cajole children totally ignorant of sex is totally unforgivable. What we are feeling goes well beyond mere anger."

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