Deprogramming Still Utilized in Japan
Deprogramming, a once popular method used against the Moonies, served to remove individuals from any new religious movement (NRM) they had joined at the disapproval of their family and society. This procedure was costly and its effectiveness was questionable. After much controversy in the abusive techniques implemented by deprogramming, over time it evolved into exit counseling which is said to have more humane practices. However, according to Patrica Dwal and Willy Fautre’s article, “Japan’s Policy of Denial on Religious Freedom,” The Huffington Post, July 29 2014 (http://huff.to/1AdoQR9) deprogramming is still a problem in Japan. In Japan, some parents are still paying large sums to deprogrammers to remove their children from untraditional religions. This is to prevent “shame” on the family name which is deeply rooted in the Japanese household where honor is highly valued. Young adults are being kidnapped, confined, physically abused and emotionally terrorized. Rarely do the young adults have the opportunity to retaliate against this violation of their human rights and there is often little police intervention. Japan is lagging behind when it comes to religious freedom.
In this case, this is a perfect example of utilizing self-help actions against the brainwashing myth caught up in the NRM recruitment controversy. This is one type of rescuing method, the other being direct government intervention, used to combat “brainwashing.” In self-help action, there is little police intervention and deprogramming is initiated by family members. In direct government intervention, the issue is addressed by politicians, education programs, sanctions and government campaigns etc. The belief that forcible conversion is effective is ironic. Often NRMs are accused of implementing unethical means of converting youth and yet the “rescuers” are the ones who are holding individuals against their will. Any evidence of abuse by NRMs would be quickly addressed by police and the government. Instead, it is rare for victims who experience deprogrammer abuse to have opportunity for legal action or have a voice to find justice. There was barely any coverage on a Japanese citizen who was given a small compensation for 12 years of deprogramming abuse after joining the Unification Church. The media focuses on negative perspectives to fuel public hostility. This is one of the characteristics of NRMs outlined by Eileen Barker, external antagonism (hostility).
I’d argue, given the community fostered by any religion (NRM or traditional), the abuse in deprogramming would only strengthen the drive to retain religious membership. Communities form a sense of comfort and acceptance. Why leave a safe loving community when their family has already rejected their religious status/identity? Brainwashing is not the issue with NRMs, traditional religions and the non-religious. It is the lack of critical thinking and understanding that pits these groups against each other resulting in unethical methods like deprogramming.