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In the Absence of Religious Freedom

In the Absence of Religious Freedom

(p.105) 4 In the Absence of Religious Freedom
Faking Liberties
Jolyon Baraka Thomas
University of Chicago Press

While postwar scholars have described the 1939 Religious Organizations Law as the death knell for religious freedom in Japan, contemporaneous accounts by both Japanese and non-Japanese parties suggest that the story is more complicated. Some prominent Buddhist leaders who opposed the law, such as Chikazumi Jōkan, did so because they found its egalitarian premises problematic, not because they thought it was particularly draconian. Meanwhile, Buddhist proponents of the law, such as former priest and government bureaucrat Andō Masazumi, suggested that the law worked to protect religious freedoms, not infringe upon them. Finally, Buddhists who were imprisoned by the Special Higher Police, such as Sōka Kyōiku Gakkai leader Makiguchi Tsunesaburō, apparently had little use for the constitutional religious freedom guarantee. Juxtaposing interpretations of religious freedom advanced by these three lay, laicized, or lay-leaning Buddhist leaders between 1925 and 1945, this chapter challenges the intertwined presuppositions that political resistance to comprehensive religions legislation was necessarily liberal, that complicity with state initiatives was inherently illiberal, and that religious leaders' deaths in police custody made them martyrs for religious freedom. It also shows that American diplomats and journalists stationed in Tokyo regarded the 1939 Religious Organizations Law as unproblematic on religious freedom grounds.

Keywords:   religious freedom, resistance, complicity, martyrdom, Religious Organizations Law, Chikazumi Jōkan, Andō Masazumi, Makiguchi Tsunesaburō, Peace Preservation Law

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