Scrutiny from the opposition intensified in Wednesday’s session of a Lower House committee after it became clear that education minister Masahito Moriyama had received electoral support in 2021 from an association affiliated to the religious group formerly known as the Unification Church.

The Asahi Shimbun reported on the same day that, in the run-up to the Lower House election of October 2021, Moriyama signed an agreement with the group that contained policy proposals on subjects such as education, constitutional revisions and LGBTQ issues.

This followed an early report published Tuesday that Moriyama had taken part in a meeting organized by the group in his home constituency in Kobe that month and secured a formal endorsement.

Under mounting pressure from the opposition on Wednesday, Moriyama maintained his initial stance and said that he couldn’t recall either the meeting or the agreement until the Asahi reported about it.

“Now that I see a picture of me receiving the recommendation, I think I might have signed it, but I can’t remember quite well,” he told the budget committee on Wednesday after Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP) lawmaker Chinami Nishimura showed a snapshot of the meeting from the report.

He added he had likely been asked to participate in the gathering at the last minute and, in the hustle and bustle of the campaign, couldn’t quite find the time to read the actual contents of the agreement or dissect them.

“I signed it carelessly,” he admitted.

The document reportedly contained proposals to amend the Constitution, bolster legislation on security and education and take a cautious approach toward issues such as gay marriage. Signing it was essential for a formal endorsement, according to the Asahi reports.

When the relationship between the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and the former Unification Church came under intense media scrutiny in the aftermath of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s assassination in July 2022, the LDP compiled a list of all party members who had connections to the group and asked them to sever any and all ties.

Moriyama’s name figured among those admitting they had participated in the group’s meetings and made speeches. But he said that he hadn't reported the meeting at the center of the news reports of the past couple of days because he didn't recall attending it.

As education minister, Moriyama is currently directly involved in a feud with the Unification Church.

Last October, his ministry, which oversees matters related to religious organizations, officially sought a court order to deprive the church of its status as a religious group. While the trial is ongoing, the group has protested the decision, describing it as a violation of the right to religious freedom.

Meanwhile, the opposition in parliament doubled down on its calls for Moriyama’s dismissal.

”He might not remember that, but, if that’s what actually happened, based on that I think he should be removed from his position,” the CDP’s Nishimura said to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, calling Moriyama an "inapt and dishonest politician."

Nishimura, who has been at the forefront of bipartisan efforts to pass a bill to offer relief to victims of the Unification Church since last fall, stressed that the agreement is considered valid to this day even if Moriyama has severed its ties to the group.

Kishida so far has rebuffed the calls for Moriyama's resignation, saying that he has made sure all LDP lawmakers have cut off their ties to the group.

“Regardless of past ties, I named him (Moriyama) education minister on the premise that he doesn’t have any relationship to the group at the moment,” he said.