Mainichi Daily News (Japan), Aug. 21, 2002
The controversial Unification Church was ordered to pay compensation to its former followers by a Tokyo court Wednesday for forcing them to marry an unknown partner at its “public wedding” ceremonies.
Presiding Judge Hirotsugu Koizumi at the Tokyo District Court ruled that the Christian sect led by South Korean Sun Myung-moon acted illegally.
“No follower of the sect was aware that they didn’t have to attend these wedding ceremonies if they didn’t want to and marry whoever they were partnered with,” Koizumi said in ordering the sect pay 9.2 million yen in damages to the three former followers. “These acts were serious breaches of freedom of marriage.”
A Unification Church spokesperson expressed regret over the decision. “We are upset by the ruling. We plan to appeal after studying the contents of the ruling.”
The church argued that the three joined the sect at their own will, but the court denied the claim saying that the church recruited the trio to “gain financial profits through donations.” Koizumi also determined that the Unification Church’s activities were “beyond socially accepted levels” for religious activities.
The plaintiffs, whose details are being withheld, except that they were aged between 37 and 40, joined the sect between 1984 and 1991 without realizing that they were joining the Unification Church, the ruling said.
Each of them had personal problems and was invited to the church’s study session by members who did not tell them that those meetings were organized by Sun Myung-moon’s group. “If you don’t come to a study session, a miserable fate awaits your whole family,” the three were reportedly told by Unification Church members.
After they joined the sect, they were forced to take part in promotional activities of the religious group and then mass wedding ceremonies.
Two of the plaintiffs married partners they had never met.