Chief Cabinet secretary admits meeting with church group

Asahi Shimbun/February 8, 2024

By Shohei Sasagawa

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi is the latest minister admitting to contact with the Unification Church, confirming on Feb. 7 that he met with individuals connected to the controversial religious group in September 2021.

The top government spokesman confirmed a weekly magazine's report on the meeting.

Hayashi said it took place at his office in his constituency in Yamaguchi Prefecture, attended by members of a group affiliated with the church, now called the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification.

“The meeting was arranged by people from the local political community,” Hayashi said. “It’s one of many meetings of its kind and, at the moment, I’m not sure who they were or what we discussed.”

He also denied receiving any political support or donations from the group.

Shukan Shincho magazine posted an article about the meeting on its online platform on the same day.

Hayashi's confirmation of the meeting follows Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's earlier acknowledgement during a Diet session that day.

Kishida responded to questions from Chinami Nishimura, a Lower House member from the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, saying he had "heard of Hayashi's meeting with people connected to the church."

However, Kishida insisted that his Cabinet has no questionable ties to the controversial religious group.

“I have confirmed with each minister that there have been no new findings of support from the church and its affiliated organizations in the form of endorsements, donations or other assistance during elections,” he said.

However, during the same Diet session, education minister Masahito Moriyama admitted signing an agreement in 2021 with an organization affiliated with the church, which is believed to have endorsed him in that year's Lower House election where he secured his seat.

Kishida has rejected calls for Moriyama’s resignation following the revelation.

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