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Japan high court dismisses PM shrine visit lawsuit

[JURIST] The Japanese Supreme Court [official website, in Japanese] Friday dismissed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visits to the Yasukuni shrine [shrine website], according to a court spokesperson who did not provide details on the ruling. The suit was brought by 338 plaintiff survivors of South Korean, Japanese, and Chinese soldiers killed during wars involving Japan, who say the Prime Minister visited the shrine in 2001 in an official capacity, impermissibly violating Japan's constitutional barriers between church and state. Article 20 of the Japan Constitution [text] reads:

Freedom of religion is guaranteed to all. No religious organization shall receive any privileges from the State, nor exercise any political authority. No person shall be compelled to take part in any religious acts, celebration, rite or practice. The State and its organs shall refrain from religious education or any other religious activity.
The Court declined to address constitutional issues in the ruling, instead rejecting the plaintiff's claim that they were damaged psychologically by Koizumi's visits.

While South Korean and Chinese officials have condemned the shrine for glorifying Japanese militarism and several convicted war criminals, Koizumi has defended his shrine visits [JURIST report], saying that other nations should not make domestic issues of spiritual matters. Last September, Japan's Osaka High Court ruled [JURIST report] that the Prime Minister's visits violate constitutional provisions for the separation of church and state, but an October decision upheld [JURIST report] a lower court ruling [JURIST report] to dismiss a lawsuit against Koizumi. AP has more. Kyodo has local coverage.

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