Japan's House of Representatives on Tuesday voted down a no-confidence motion against education minister Masahito Moriyama, who has drawn scrutiny over his links to the controversial Unification Church.

The main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan criticized Moriyama, whose ministerial portfolio covers religious affairs, in the motion for his repeated "insincere" explanations in parliament regarding his ties to the religious group.

With the failure of the motion, submitted by the opposition party on Monday, the government of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will try to secure the passage of a draft budget for fiscal 2024 starting April by the lower house as soon as possible.

Japan's education minister Masahito Moriyama (front) attends a House of Representatives plenary session in Tokyo on Feb. 20, 2024. (Kyodo)

Citing unnamed sources, a major newspaper reported earlier this month that Moriyama participated in an event hosted by a group affiliated with the Unification Church and that he accepted a recommendation letter ahead of a general election in October 2021.

In a parliamentary session, Moriyama, a 70-year-old lower house member, said he had no recollection of the event, but added, "If there happen to be photos" carried by the Asahi Shimbun daily, "I think I must have received the recommendation letter."

Moriyama, who assumed his post in September 2023, also said he did not seek the support of the group affiliated with the Unification Church, which has been scrutinized over its aggressive fundraising tactics, for the lower house election.

But Moriyama has acknowledged signing a document pledging support for policies championed by the Unification Church in the run-up to the lower house election, saying he did so "without sufficiently checking its contents."

Signing the document is believed to have been a condition for receiving a letter of endorsement for the election from the religious corporation, formally called the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification that is described by critics as a cult.

Amid criticism of the organization, Kishida's government filed a request with a court in October for an order to dissolve it, which could deprive it of tax benefits.

With the education minister facing accusations of a conflict of interest, Kishida has defended Moriyama saying he was appointed after severing relations with the Unification Church.

Every no-confidence motion moved in the last decade has been voted down in the lower house, which has been continuously under the control of the ruling bloc of the Liberal Democratic Party and its junior partner the Komeito party.

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