Arguments in the appeal in the court case disputing the presidency of Jinja Honchō were heard on May 1st, and reported in the May 15th issue of Jinja Shinpō. To recap, briefly, there was a dispute within the Board of Directors over who should be the president of Jinja Honchō. A majority of the directors voted for Revd Tanaka, the previous president, but the chairman, supported by a minority of the members, appointed Revd Ashihara. The dispute is over which, if either, of those appointments is legally effective. For now, Revd Tanaka is serving as president. Revd Ashihara sued to have the court confirm that he was president, and the lower court said he wasn’t. He appealed. (The tag for this post should connect you to my posts about the whole saga.)
That was the appeal that the Tokyo High Court heard on May 1st. The court has not given its decision yet, but the arguments of the two sides were described in the article.
Revd Ashihara’s (lawyer’s) argument was threefold. First, they argued that the lower court had not taken all the relevant regulations of Jinja Honchō into account in reaching its decision. They argued that the kenshō (constitution, roughly), and regulations for directors should have been taken into account as well as the regulations specified under the Religious Corporations Law. They claimed that these regulations had a higher status within Jinja Honchō than the legally required regulations. Second, they argued that the court had focused entirely on Jinja Honchō as a religious corporation, and neglected its status as a religious body. Finally, they argued that the chairman’s appointment of the president was the appointment of the president of the religious body, who has specific roles concerning the support and counselling of the chairman, rather than the appointment of the head of the religious corporation, even though the two roles are filled by the same person, and must be under the regulations. They argued that someone who was not appointed by the chairman could not fulfil the president’s role in the religious body.
Jinja Honchō’s (lawyer’s) counterargument was that Revd Ashihara tried to make it sound as though the lower court had missed something important, but it hadn’t, and its judgement was entirely appropriate.
I am not a lawyer, but my understanding is that Revd Ashihara is making the right sort of arguments for an appeal, and I suspect that even if he loses the appeal, he will get a substantive answer from the court on why these factors are not relevant. That could be very interesting, because the relationship between the religious corporation and the religious body is a rather fraught area of law in Japan. (Constitutionally, the state is not allowed to interfere with religious bodies, but it regulates religious corporations. The legal distinction that Revd Ashihara is trying to draw is well-established.)
The judgement will be issued on June 14th, which will be after the next meeting of the Oversight Council. This blog post is mainly here so that I can focus on the implications of the decision when it is time to write about that.