TOKYO - The Tokyo District Court on Wednesday ordered the Unification Church to pay about 9.2 million yen in damages to three former followers for illegally enticing and forcing them into marriage against their will.
A lawyer for the three said it is the first time a ruling has recognized the illegality of forced participation in such arranged mass marriages and ordered the Unification Church, whose members are commonly known as "Moonies" after its founder Sun Myung Moon, to pay compensation.
The plaintiffs - two women and a man aged between 37 and 40 - had sought a total of 43 million yen.
The man and one of the two women are residents of Tokyo, while the other woman comes from Fukuoka Prefecture, southwestern Japan.
In handing down the ruling, Presiding Judge Hirotsugu Koizumi described the mass marriages as illegal and infringing on the concept of freedom in marrying.
"The followers had no freedom to refuse the partners selected for them, and were made to believe that if they did not participate here, they and their ancestors would not be saved," Koizumi said.
Koizumi said that in recruiting followers the Moonies simply wanted to get hold of people who would make use of their products, and not because they were sincerely spreading their teachings.
He added that the movement tried to inculcate fear and anxiety in its followers and confuse them enough to prevent them from breaking away.
The Unification Church said it is disappointed with the ruling and will appeal against it after studying the details. (Kyodo News)