The new group will cut itself off from the cult’s “offerings” from members and from accounting for income and expenses such as those involved in operating the cult’s training halls.
Public security authorities are focusing on the Joyu faction’s movements, believing it is possible that a new religious organization could be formed.
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“This is intended to evade application of the Group Control Law and survive as a new religious organization,” a public security official said.
Sources close to AUM said a split of finances had been resolved following several discussions between the Joyu group and an opposing anti-Joyu group. In line with the decision, “segregation” is expected to proceed at the cult’s facilities across Japan, which number over 20.
After the split, the Joyu group will continue to collect “membership fees” that cult followers pay on a regular basis, but it will reportedly lower the fees to account for cult members having to pull out from existing facilities. Initial moves are expected to be seen from July.
“You could call the current conditions ‘a split within the religious organization,'” a source close to the cult said.
Division has continued in the cult between the Joyu faction, which aims to lessen the influence of 51-year-old cult founder Shoko Asahara, and the anti-Joyu faction, which has embraced Asahara’s teachings.
Public security officials say that of the cult’s roughly 1,650 members, about 20 percent belong to the Joyu faction. The anti-Joyu faction is believed to have about the same strength, and both sides have reportedly struggled to win over the many neutral members who do not belong to either side.
During the Golden Week series of national holidays earlier this month, Joyu, 43, addressed followers in a faction seminar, saying, “I want to form a new organization before (Asahara’s) sentence is fixed.” Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, was sentenced to death over the cult’s crimes, including the deadly sarin gas attacks on Tokyo subway lines in 1995.
Speaking again to followers at his base in Tokyo’s Setgaya-ku on May 14, Joyu said, “If we make a new religious organization, we will never make a person into a god.” He appeared to be distancing himself from views that Asahara held an absolute existence.
AUM Shinrikyo is now calling itself Aleph.