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Home » 3. Institutions and Administrative Practices » Modern and Contemporary
Religious Organizations Law
(Shūkyōdantaihō)
The first systematized set of laws pertaining to religious groups. Promulgated on April 8 1939 as Law no.77, it was enacted on April 1 of the following year. The law comprised thirty seven articles, and together they spelt the end of state supervision and state control over religious administration and religious groups by means of individual edicts, which had been the practise since the Restoration of 1868. The law was significant in clarifying the legal status of all religious groups and associations, excepting shrines.
       The need for an integrated, fundamental law was frequently articulated by government ministers, by parliament and by religious institutions themselves after the publication of edict no.19 by the Dajōkan (Council of State). This edict indirectly recognized the autonomy of religious groups under the control of their own leadership which coincided with the abolition of the Shintō-Buddhist preceptors known as kyōdōshoku in 1882. In 1898, the Civil Code was promulgated and provided a legal framework for religions, but the Law for the Implementation of the Civil Code (minpō shikō hō) which came into effect at the same time was designed to provide a different set of special regulations for shrines and other religious corporations. In fact Shimizu Tōru, General Secretary to the Home Ministry's Shajikyoku (Bureau for Shrines and Temples), drafted a shrine law and a temple law and it was based on these drafts that a draft religions bill was presented to the Upper House. Buddhists however launched a campaign of protest on the grounds that although Buddhism's position as religious corporation was weak the state still exerted considerable control over it, and that the law placed Buddhism on the same legal footing as Christianity. In the Diet, too, the bill encountered opposition; a majority failed to support it and it was rejected. Thereafter on several occasions the government drafted religious legislation but it always encountered opposition until finally this Religious Organizations Law was passed. The law was wide-ranging in content, but its real significance lies in the fact that religious groups now for the first time acquired a legal footing. Also, groups which had been hitherto defined as "quasi-religious groups" (ruiji shūkyō dantai) and had been the object of police attention also became officially recognized as "religious association" (shūkyō kessha) under the new legislation and fell under the administration of the state.

— Sakamoto Koremaru
"Establishment of a National Learning Institute for the Dissemination of Research on Shinto and Japanese Culture"
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