Sunday, December 27, 2015

"Court rules ordinance on standing for national anthem constitutional"

VAOJ has been covering this issue for some time since the film, Against Coercion, came out. The latest installment of this social drama, set in Osaka, features a court decision that says the smooth running of a ceremony is more important than basic human rights. This idea of smoothness is not limited to forced patriotism; recently the Japanese Supreme Court ruled that women cannot use their maiden names on official documents after they get married because having different names in the same family would cause confusion and somehow threaten society. (See the opinion piece, The scourge of conformism besetting Japanese society by Jiro Yamaguchi in The Japan Times, 12/25/15.)

But for now, back to the Osaka court ruling on the forced singing of the national anthem...

From Japan Today, 12/22/15:

The Osaka District Court on Monday ruled that a prefectural ordinance obligating teachers to stand up to sing the national anthem during school ceremonies is constitutional, rejecting a lawsuit filed by a teacher saying the rule violates freedom of thought.

It is the first time that the court has handed down a ruling in connection with the 2011 Osaka prefectural ordinance on standing for “Kimigayo,” which carries lines wishing for the eternal reign of the emperor that are seen by some as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism.

Presiding Judge Hiroyuki Naito said in the ruling that orders from the plaintiff’s superiors to follow the ordinance “indirectly restricted” the constitutional right of freedom of thought and conscience, but they were necessary for “the smooth progress of the ceremonies to an allowable extent.”

He also said the ordinance is in line with Japanese law, including legislation enacted in 1999 that designated the Hinomaru as the national flag and “Kimigayo” as the national anthem.

Yasutaka Okuno, a 58-year-old teacher at a prefectural-run school, filed the lawsuit as he was given an official warning for refusing to follow an order from the school principal to comply with the ordinance regarding a graduation ceremony in March 2012.

Okuno said he refused to comply because “it goes against my Christian faith.”

Okuno was also slapped with a one-month pay cut over his behavior at the graduation ceremony in March 2013. He was assigned to work outside the place where the ceremony was held, but entered the venue and refused to follow the vice principal’s order to leave. He also did not stand up when the anthem was sung.

The court said the pay cut was not illegal because Okuno had “actively” engaged in behavior that “damaged the order and atmosphere of important school events,” such as refusing to exit the venue even though he was told to do so.

In the lawsuit, Okuno sought to invalidate the punishment and requested 2 million yen ($16,500) in compensation from the Osaka prefectural government.

The ordinance was passed in June 2011 when the governor of the western Japan city was Toru Hashimoto, known for his nationalist political views. It obligates teachers and other school staff of public schools in the prefecture to stand up and sing the anthem during school ceremonies.


Click here for previous VAOJ coverage.

See also The scourge of conformism besetting Japanese society.

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