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HOME  > Past issues  > 2007 July 11 - 17  > LDP and DPJ competing for votes from religious groups
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2007 July 11 - 17 [POLITICS]

LDP and DPJ competing for votes from religious groups

July 7, 2007
Last spring, the Liberal Democratic Party and the Democratic Party of Japan formed their respective Buddhist parliamentarians’ leagues. Since then, both parties have been approaching religious groups to enlist their support in the House of Councilors election.

The religious groups for their part have responded favorably to political parties’ moves. However, the situation in which religious groups are canvassing for votes on behalf of political parties has provoked criticism among members of those groups. “Is it acceptable for a religious organization to act as a subcontractor of a political party? How can believers’ freedom to vote be guaranteed?” they are asking.

Jodo-shu, a Buddhist sect, decided to support an incumbent LDP candidate in the proportional representation election in the previous election six years ago. According to the LDP candidate’s office, other sects, including Soto-shu, Nichiren-shu, Tendai-shu, and Shingon-shu Buzan-ha and Chizan-ha, have also come to support him.

Jodo-Shin-shu Hongwanji-ha is supporting a DPJ new candidate in the proportional representation election and an LDP incumbent in the Osaka prefectural constituency.

The Federation of New Religious Organizations of Japan and Rissho Kosei-kai, the main affiliate of the federation, decided to back an LDP incumbent and two new DPJ candidates for the proportional representation election.

Shinto, rightist new religions, and some Christian groups also decided on candidates they will support in the election.

They are actively engaged in such activities as issuing directives to their related organizations and affiliate temples and sending candidates to believers’ meetings.

This is the first time in 18 years for the Federation of New Religious Organizations to put up its own candidates and in 33 years for Jodo-Shin-shu Hongwanji-ha.

Hongwanji-ha established supporters’ organizations across the country in which top officials of the sect are taking part. It instructed heads of 30 parishes to report how temples are cooperating in the campaign and each office staff member is to recruit 20 supporters, put up candidates’ posters, and directly canvass for votes by phone. The sect is mobilizing literally its entire resources, including organizations, facilities, and funds.

Why are religious organizations now so eagerly engaged in election campaigns? The governing LDP has been luring religious organizations to cooperate in the election by hinting at a change in the current taxation system in which religious corporations enjoy a tax-free status.

“In the case of Soka Gakkai, the religious organization is aiming at controlling party politics using the Komei Party. But in the case of other religious organizations, they have become subsidiaries of political parties,” said a journalist who specializes in religious affairs and is familiar with the world of politics. “In any case, this is nothing but an infringement on the freedom to vote by making use of religious beliefs,” he added.

A resident priest of Hongwanji-ha in Osaka said, “We are instructed to vote for the DPJ in the proportional representation election and for an LDP candidate in our local constituency. How insulting this is!”

In some sects, protests are being lodged against such instructions.

Miyake Zensho, a resident priest in Kyoto, said, “Religious groups are responsible for their organizations, facilities, and funds that belong to believers. They must refrain from misusing those resources to support any party or candidate.” - Akahata, July 7, 2007
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