Aum Disbanding Likely as Trials Proceed
The Tokyo High Court in December dismissed Aum Shinrikyo's appeal against a lower court dissolution order, paving the way for legal procedures to strip the cult, accused of the subway gassing of thousands last year, of its status as a religious corporation, and to liquidate its assets. This is the first time the government has ever ordered the disbandment of a religious group for criminal acts. Despite the order, Aum could continue its religious activities, although without official status.
But the Justice Ministry also wants to invoke a 1952 law which would prevent Aum from even engaging in religious activity. A hearing as to whether to apply this law was to have been held in January. The law, originally aimed at radical leftist groups, would not only force Aum to disband but also ban followers from any sect activities. No group has ever been banned under the law, which has been criticized as enabling the government to stifle dissent. [Indeed, according to the Unification Church-owned Washington Times, 10/9/95, A9, politically oriented religious groups in Japan fear that the government's moves are directed against them, as well. (From "High Court rejects AUM appeal over disbandment," Mainichi Daily News, 12/20/95, 1)