Free Land for Shrine Ruled Unconstitutional

January 21, 2010

Author: Staff Writer

Source: The Japan Times

It is unconstitutional for a municipal government to offer city-owned land without charge for the site of a Shinto shrine, the Supreme Courtsaid Wednesday.

The ruling by the top court's Grand Bench upheld the contention of the plaintiffs, reportedly two local residents, that the municipal government of Sunagawa, Hokkaido, violated the Constitution's principle of separation of state and religion by granting the shrine city land free of charge.

"It is inevitable that the general public would believe the local government supports a specific religion if it provides specific benefits to it," the bench said.

It also said that determining whether a religious facility is operating in accordance with the principle of separation of state and religion should take "socially accepted ideas into account."