The Unification Church, apparently fearing the wrath of the education ministry, agreed to pay 230 million [$2,260,000 – RNB] yen to a woman who said she was intimidated into donating huge sums to the group.
The woman, 70, from Chiba Prefecture, had demanded about 260 million yen in compensation, claiming the group pushed her to make contributions. She said she was told the reason her husband died of an illness was “because of his fate caused by ancestors’ actions.”
The sum is a record for an out-of-court settlement involving the Unification Church and an individual, the National Network of Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales said.
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Representatives of the Unification Church, a religious group founded in South Korea by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, initially offered 130 million yen to the woman.
But they added about 100 million yen to the sum after the woman indicated she would pursue the responsibility of the education ministry, which oversees religious corporations.
Hiroshi Yamaguchi, a lawyer with the network against spiritual sales, said the Unification Church likely increased the sum out of fear of the ministry.
“The Unification Church must be hoping to avoid a possible suspension and other punitive measures,” he said.
The woman first sent a notice to the group demanding compensation in August 2006, according to Masaki Kito, the woman’s lawyer.
Not satisfied with the group’s initial offer, the woman’s side sent out another letter, saying the education ministry was also responsible for failing to force the Unification Church to make a sincere response to her claim.
An accompanying draft complaint showed that the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology was also listed as a defendant in the woman’s planned compensation lawsuit.
The group then offered to pay about 230 million yen to settle the matter. Last month, they reached a settlement and the group started making payments.
The religious corporation law states that the education ministry can order a religious corporation to suspend operations or it can file a request with a court to seek the disbandment of the group.