Sapporo -- The controversial Unification Church group was on Friday ordered to pay 29 million yen to 20 former followers it was convicted of brainwashing with mind control techniques. In handing down the Sapporo District Court ruling, Presiding Judge Yoichi Sato said the Unification Church had acted illegally in persuading 20 women to join the group and make donations.
"The inducement (of the plaintiffs into the group) was carried out methodically and systematically with the unfair purpose of exploiting their assets and making them work without compensation," Sato said. "It was illegal and there is a possibility that it exploited their rights to freedom of religious belief."
The women, who were awarded a total of 29.52 million yen in compensation, were persuaded to join the group in Hokkaido between 1985 and 1990. Before they eventually left the group, they were trained with videos and in camps, where they were lectured on the Unification Church's doctrines. They were also made to vend food door-to-door as well as sell such items as jewelry and kimono fabric for the purpose of "training" and "donations," the court ruled.
The ruling came 14 years after the first suit from the plaintiffs was filed against the group, a point Sato brought up in the hearing. "Fourteen years have passed since the case was brought to court, and the court must uncomplainingly accept that it has not fulfilled its proper duty in taking this long over the trials," he said.
During the case the 20 women claimed that they persuaded to join the group without being told it was the Unification Church and taught values that contradicted their beliefs. The group, often referred to as the Moonies after their founder Sun Myung Moon, also made the women give up their jobs and forced them to make donations and purchases, the court ruled.
The women had sought between about 2 million and 3 million yen each in compensation, and had demanded that the Unification Church return personal seals they handed over to the group when they joined it.