Assemblyman willing to lose LDP backing in favor of church

A veteran Tokushima city councilman, a member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, confirmed that he remains a supporter of the Unification Church and has campaigned politically to fulfill the group’s “wishes”.

Hideo Mima, 73, told The Asahi Shimbun that he has no intention of cutting ties with the church, despite orders from the LDP’s top ranks.

He is currently serving his sixth term on the city council and said he still donates money to the church.

Mima’s long association with the Unification Church was no secret. His mother’s concerns about his donations to the organization were raised before a state legislature committee in the 1970s.

Mima explained how he came to join the Unification Church.

After graduating from a university in Tokyo, he was working at a trading company in Osaka when he saw a flyer about a “civic school course” on a subway.

He attended the course.

“I was moved by the idea that we should change the world not only through politics and economics, but also through religious thinking,” Mima said.

He later learned that the organizer of the course was the Unification Church, and he became a member in 1974.

Mima also re-entered university to study political and religious history.

He initially lived with other followers in a facility that church members called “home.”

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Though he was encouraged to recruit new followers, Mina said he’s “not good at” recruiting people.

“My mission was to win a seat in the legislature and fulfill the desires of the church, such as bringing about world peace and treating all people as one family,” Mima said.

He said he has also worked to bring about “a policy based on traditional family values”.

Mima’s mother was worried about her son and lobbied a member of the state parliament to “rescue” Mima from the church.

A House of Commons Judiciary Committee discussed the issue in 1977. His mother said at a committee meeting that she had taken her son back from the church and found him work in a cement trading company her family ran.

But she discovered that Mima donated his salary and bonuses to the church. He also told her that he would marry a person chosen by the Unification Church.

“He’s just a shell of himself,” the mother said at the meeting.

Mima said of his mother’s statement, “It wasn’t like I donated all my salary. My mom just got paranoid.”

Mima won his first city council seat in 1995 as an independent candidate. He repeatedly held study group meetings on policy areas such as national defense and constitutional revision.

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These issues caught the attention of the LDP, which has officially supported him since 2015.

In the last two elections he ran and won as a candidate of the LDP.

“The church itself does not have the power to make laws,” Mima said. “The church didn’t give me any specific suggestions, but I thought I should do what I could do under the umbrella of the LDP.”

One project he has promoted is the Japan-South Korea Undersea Tunnel project, based on the wishes of Sun Myung Moon, the founder of the Unification Church.

Mima founded a group to promote the tunnel project in 2010, led by a late LDP member of the Tokushima Prefectural Assembly. Mima acted as vice chair.

In 2011, an opinion letter was submitted to the Tokushima Prefectural Assembly seeking to speed up construction of the tunnel.

Although approved by the assembly, the tunnel project has long stalled.

Concerns about the Unification Church’s fundraising methods surfaced again after former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was shot dead in July by a gunman who appeared to have resentment against the church.

LDP general secretary Toshimitsu Motegi told a press conference Sept. 8 that party members should cut all ties with the church.

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Mima said he will not hide the fact that he is a follower of the church. He also said he would not mind if the LDP refused to support him in the next parliamentary elections, scheduled for spring 2023.

He said it was “regrettable” that the church had created sacrifices through its so-called spiritual sales.

“I will stand for re-election even if the party does not support me,” he said. “I want to win and help these victims.”

The Tokushima Prefectural Chapter of the LDP decides whether or not to support candidates for the city assembly.

Several members of the prefectural assembly said they were “aware” of Mima’s ties to the church.

But Yoshiyuki Shigekiyo, general secretary of the prefectural chapter, told The Asahi Shimbun, “I didn’t know until the (Abe shooting).”

He said he didn’t know how the party would handle the situation, noting that endorsement decisions are fundamentally “personality driven.”

“It’s not that (Mima) did anything wrong herself,” Shigekiyo said. “I can do nothing but wait for instructions from party headquarters on what to do in the future.”

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