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Burton Highlights Importance of Religious Freedom in Japan and America

Religious Freedom (Credits: Linkedin)

Religious freedom is a cornerstone of any democratic society. It represents the fundamental right to express and practice beliefs without fear of persecution or discrimination.

We are fortunate to live in a country where this right is upheld, but it’s crucial to recognize the implications when one of our closest allies undermines this cornerstone and why it matters here in the United States.

Japan, a key ally renowned for its rich cultural heritage, is a democracy whose constitution acknowledges its citizens’ right to religious belief. However, recent years have seen the government launch vicious attacks on religious minorities without evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

Freedom of Religion (Credits: Denver Catholic)

Various faiths have coexisted and influenced each other for centuries, shaping Japan’s spiritual landscape much like in the United States. However, the Family Federation, formerly the Unification Church, has faced relentless persecution by the National Diet and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida since the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2022.

The shooter who committed this heinous act expressed hatred toward the church because his mother, a member, had made donations to it over 20 years ago. The Japanese Communist Party has exploited this tragedy to mobilize against the Family Federation.

Founded by Sun Myung Moon, the Family Federation advocates for stronger ties between Japan, Korea, and the United States and has criticized Marxism-Leninism, which has led to animosity from the Japanese Communist Party.

National Religious Freedom (Credits: America Magazine)

Despite baseless accusations of corruption and being a threat to society, the church operates globally, contributes to charitable causes, and engages in peace-building efforts and interfaith dialogues.

The government’s case to dissolve the church is pending in the Tokyo District Court. If dissolved, the government would seize the church’s assets, close places of worship, and revoke its status as a religious corporation, potentially driving it underground.

As Japan is a crucial ally, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s upcoming visit to the United States presents an opportunity to address this issue. We must remind our Japanese friends that religious freedom is a litmus test for all other human rights.

If the government restricts citizens’ right to believe, it sets a dangerous precedent for disregarding other basic rights. Similarly, any person of faith in Japan would have reason to fear further government overreach.

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