The Yokohama diocese has filed a protest against the arrest of a Filipino man on the grounds of a Catholic church in a letter that calls the action “an infringement of the basic human right to freedom of religion.”
According to the complaint, in the early afternoon of Pentecost Sunday, May 27, six or seven officers from the Kawasaki-Rinko Police Station of the Kanagawa prefectural police entered the grounds of the Kaizuka Catholic Church in Kawasaki City without notice or warrant and arrested the layman for not carrying his passport.
The police wanted to investigate the man on suspicion of illegally overstaying in Japan. The pastor of the church, Fr. Takashi Motoyanagi, protested that since they did not have a warrant to conduct an investigation on the church property or an arrest warrant for the individual, they had no right to enter the parish grounds. Witnesses to the event included many Filipinos and Japanese who reported that the investigators were overbearing in their speech and actions.
On June 5, Fr. Motoyanagi and a lawyer visited the Kawasaki-Rinko Police station to deliver a letter from Bishop Masahiro Umemura expressing his concern over the event. The letter makes two points, that conducting an investigation and making an arrest on church grounds infringes the fundamental human right to freedom of religion, and that doing so without a warrant violates proper legal procedures and thereby poses a threat to society.
The diocesan complaint demanded an apology for the event as well as a guarantee that police will not enter Church sites illegally to conduct investigations. The bishop also asked that police refrain from directing investigative activities involving immigration toward those visiting churches or near church grounds.
Fr. Motoyanagi said he expected a written response to the letter, but the police responded that after considering the matter they would decide whether to give a written or verbal response. The priest said that he got the impression that the police do not think entering Church sites without warrants is illegal.
At a June 7 meeting of the bishops’ conference standing committee, Bishop Umemura reported the incident and said that he is waiting for a response from the police. Since the Church in Japan has many foreign members, the incident will be on the agenda of the Japan bishops’ plenary assembly that starts on June 19.
Tokyo, 11th June 2012