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Home » 3. Institutions and Administrative Practices » Modern and Contemporary
Problems of religion and government
In Article Twenty-eight of the Meiji Constitution, religious freedom was recognized after a fashion, but the argument was that shrines were not religious institutions and so in fact shrines held a special position. Thus it was that GHQ issued the Shintō Directive (Shintō shirei) immediately after the war. It determined that State Shintō (Kokka Shintō) was intimately linked to ultra-nationalism and militarism and so ordered the separation of Shintō from the state. The postwar constitution, following this precedent, gave a legal footing to the principle of the separation of state and religion in setting out the following articles. Article Twenty, Clause One: "No religious organization shall receive any privileges from the state, nor exercise any political authority;" Article Twenty, Clause Three: "The state and its organs shall refrain from religious education or any other religious activity;" Article Eighty-nine: "No public money or other property shall be expended or appropriated for the use, benefit or maintenance of any religious institution or association, or for any charitable educational or benevolent enterprise not under the control of public authority."
       However, many problems have arisen over the interpretation of these stipulations. If a broad definition of religion and government is taken, organs of state are prohibited from all involvement with religions. If a narrower definition of the country and its organs, in relationship to specific religious organizations, is taken, the situation changes. Although the state may not suppress or indeed grant favors to any religious organization, there are those who argue that there need not necessarily be constitutional objections to the application of public funds to the performance of social rites and customs that are only loosely connected to specific religious organizations. The Tsu city incident is a case in point. In 1977, the Supreme Court affirmed the constitutionality of the Tsu city authorities' donation of funds for the performance of a Shintō groundbreaking ceremony (jichinsai) prior to the erection of some public buildings. In the court case, the argument revolved around whether the groundbreaking ceremony was religious practice or secular practice according to general custom. There was another related Supreme Court case in 1993 involving action against Mino'o city for its financial support of a pacification rite (ireisai) held before a memorial monument where the mayor and his staff were in attendance; this too was declared constitutional. On this occasion the debate concerned the religiosity or otherwise of memorial monuments and rites of pacification. Both cases drew much attention because debates touched upon interpretations of the constitution, in particular the extent to which the principle of the separation of government and religion might be applied. Other issues pertaining to the same principle include official visits by the prime minister and his cabinet to Yasukuni Shrine and bills relating to state protection of that shrine; and also state support of Shintō rites relating to the imperial succession (kōi keishō).

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