The autumn meeting of the Jinja Honchō Oversight Council happened on October 20th, and was reported in the November 1st issue of Jinja Shinpō. It was not quite as dramatic as I had feared it could be: no-one resigned, no-one was fired, and there were no actual fistfights (at least according to the published report). However, it was quite dramatic enough.
All the ordinary business was conducted, and all of that seems to have been passed without any trouble. The controversial issue was the ongoing court case, and so that is what I will focus on. It is worth reiterating that the normal business did all go through without any trouble — no-one seems to be interested in holding the rest of Jinja Honchō’s activities hostage over the court case.
As I mentioned back in May, 55 members of the Oversight Council signed a proposed motion calling on Jinja Honchō to stop pursuing the court case. This was, in accordance with normal procedure, submitted to a special committee that looks over these proposals — and they decided not to submit it to the Oversight Council, but rather pass it along to the Board of Directors for their consideration.
There was substantial push back against this, with three different councillors standing to object. One of them, Revd Haruna (probably — this is a slightly unusual name so it could be read “Shunmei” or something) argued that, as the Oversight Council was the highest decision-making body in Jinja Honchō, they should get to debate the motion. The head of the General Office replied that proposed proposals only became real proposals after the special committee had considered them and the Council had approved that, and that the Board of Directors got to make decisions about how Jinja Honchō was run, which included the court case.
Revd Sano (who has come up a lot) then asked if the chairman, Revd Nakayama, had received a new request along the same lines as the proposed motion that had been dropped. He said that he had, and Revd Sano asked him to confirm the number of signatories, which he did. It was signed by 82 people. (That is not a majority of the Oversight Council, but it is a majority of the councillors who were actually there.) Revd Sano asked for that to be taken into account in the direction of the council meeting.
The decision to appeal to the Supreme Court was raised, and another councillor, Revd Makino, asked about the vote at the Board of Directors. Of the 17 directors, 9 voted in favour, and 6 against — two of them were not at the meeting. One of the officers of Jinja Honchō explained that one reason for the appeal was to preserve the order of the whole jinja world, because there had been a lot of consultations with Jinja Honchō over personnel issues recently.
Another councillor spoke up, saying that the proceedings of the Board of Directors meeting had been leaked on the internet (I am not a journalist, I will not go looking), and that persons unknown had sent documents to the directors before the meeting. He regarded this as something that should not happen within Shinto, and also suggested that the broad reading of the whistleblower protection law was unconstitutional, and thus should be challenged in the Supreme Court. (The report, at least, contains no details on how it is supposed to be unconstitutional.)
Over the course of the debate, arguments that I have reported before were rehashed (I believe, from other sources, that the meeting went on for rather a long time). I will not go over them again here.
As part of this, Revd Sano raised an emergency motion calling on the Board of Directors to withdraw the appeal. According to the article, “more than two voices were raised in support”, so it was established as an emergency motion. (I get the impression that this was not a matter of two people calmly and formally seconding the motion.) The head of the General Office responded by saying that, although the Oversight Council is the highest decision making body, the Board of Directors gets to make decisions like continuing with the court case, and also suggested, based on past emergency motions, that a topic like this where the Oversight Council was not unanimous was not a suitable topic for an emergency motion.
When discussing the accounts, it came out that the Board of Directors had approved the payment of the back salaries of the two officers who sued them. It was suggested that this was inconsistent with appealing, but it was explained that, because Jinja Honchō had lost the first appeal, they now had a legal obligation to pay.
Someone called for the Chairman to make a decision, as Meiji Tennō had done during a big debate in the late nineteenth century (about which kami to venerate in the central jinja — an actual religious issue), but that was turned down, because the Chairman is now a purely honorary position.
In the end, nothing actually changed at the meeting. However, I get the distinct impression that the leadership of Jinja Honchō was using as many procedural tricks as it could to shut down dissent, because if the matter had actually gone to a vote, it would probably have lost. (I think a majority of the councillors in attendance were opposed to continuing the appeal.) That might have been good tactics, but it is not going to have inclined the dissidents to look kindly on the current leadership.
I hope that people are taking steps behind the scenes to smooth over and resolve these problems, because the public side of things really does not look good. The next Oversight Council meeting is in May next year, pandemic willing. I have no idea whether the Supreme Court will have decided by then. (I suspect that, if they have, it will be because they refused to hear the appeal. I doubt that six months is enough time for a case to actually be heard before the Supreme Court.)
Things are likely to go quiet for a few months, because priests are busy with Shichi-go-san, and then Hatsumōdë, but this problem is clearly not resolved yet.