April 2021 Church & State Magazine | AU Bulletin

Japan’s Supreme Court ruled Feb. 24 that officials in the city of Naha may not deed free land to a Confucian temple.

The court ruled that the giveaway violated Article 20 of the country’s constitution, which states, “No religious organization shall receive any privileges from the State, nor exercise any political authority.”

The court wrote, “The Naha city government could be judged to be aiding a certain religion,” reported The Mainichi, a Japanese newspaper.

The temple sits on the grounds of a city-run park. City officials proposed exempting the temple from land-use fees, essentially deeding the land to a religious organization. City officials argued that the temple had historic meaning and was a tourist attraction.

A Naha resident challenged the arrangement in 2014, arguing that the policy was unconstitutional. A lower court agreed, holding that the temple is “highly religious” and that much of the time, it was not open to tourists.