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Home » 3. Institutions and Administrative Practices » Modern and Contemporary
Religious Corporations Law
(Shūkyō hōjin hō)
The Religious Corporations Law was enacted on April 3 1951; it followed the Religious Organizations Law (Shūkyō Dantaihō) of 1939 and the Religious Corporations Ordinance (Shūkyō Hōjinrei) of 1945. The law was enacted with the purpose of giving corporate status to religious groups in order that they might own, maintain and run their own assets such as sites of worship, as well as to contribute to the administration of such sites. The law comprised eightynine articles divided into Chapter 1 General Provisions, Chapter 2 Establishment, Article 3 Supervision, Article 4 Change in Regulations, Article 5 Mergers, Article 6 Dissolution, Article 7 Registration, Article 8 Consultative Committees on Religious Corporations, Article 9 Supplements and Article 10 Sanctions.
       The fundamental ideal behind the Religious Corporations Law is to be found in the following concepts: 1) that, under the Constitution, religious freedom is guaranteed and the state and administration may not intervene or mediate in issues related to religion (the principle of religious freedom and the separation of state and religion); 2) that the Religious Corporations Law relates exclusively to secular aspects of religious groups (the principle of the separation of sacred and secular); 3) that there is an expectation that, in order to guarantee to the fullest possible extent freedom of religious practice, there must be independence and autonomy with regard to the structure and operation of religious corporations (respect for autonomy and expectation of independence); and 4) that religious corporations do not require permission for disposal of assets and do not have to submit financial reports (based on the Confucian principle of the innate goodness of human nature; Jap. seizensetsu). As for the special characteristics of the Religious Corporations Law, three merit mention: 1) the approval system, which requires the religious corporation to receive the approval of the relevant authorities for the establishment of the religious corporation, changes in its regulations, and for its dissolution; 2) the system of Responsible Officers (sekinin yakuin), whereby the operation and decision making by the religious corporation is to be conducted by officers who are given official responsibility for the group (and of whom one is to act as representative official for the religious corporation); 3) the notification system which makes it incumbent on the corporation when disposing of assets or dissolving or taking other major steps, to give formal notification to the believers and other interested parties. For a religious group to receive status as a religious corporation, the following points are deemed relevant: that it seeks to disseminate a creed, to perform religious rites, to cultivate believers and to be in possession of sites of worship. Some revisions were made to the law on December 1997.

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