(photo of Kunihito Kobayashi)
Religious Conscience Brought to Court
A noteworthy case brought before the courts involved 16-year-old Kunihito Kobayashi, enrolled in the Kobe Municipal Industrial Technical College. (In Japan, technical colleges offer a five-year noncompulsory course that includes the three years of high school.) Certain schools had made it a practice to fail or expel students who did not take part in martial-arts drills. They were thus denied the right to an education. At the time of Lloyd Barry’s zone visit to the branch in December 1986, it was recommended that an exemplary brother who was facing this problem, preferably the son of an elder, be selected and that a petition against his expulsion be filed in the courts.
In 1990, Kunihito Kobayashi together with four other students had refused kendo (Japanese swordsmanship) drills in keeping with the injunction of Isaiah 2:4 to ‘beat swords into plowshares and not learn war anymore.’ As a result, they were denied promotion to the next grade. Kunihito, although being at the very top of his class scholastically, was subsequently expelled from the school for failing the physical education class two years in a row. Kunihito and four others filed a petition against the school’s actions, claiming that their constitutional rights to freedom of worship and to an education had been infringed upon. After various appeals, it was the case of Kunihito that finally reached the Supreme Court. On March 8, 1996, the judges of the Second Petit Bench of the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in his favor, declaring that the college had erred by forcing him to choose between his religion and an education. This was the first time that the court had ruled on a case in which freedom of religion was weighed against the authority of a school over its curriculum. The new principal called together the entire student body, admitted the school’s lack of good judgment in the case, and asked them to “warmly welcome Mr. Kobayashi back as a fellow student.” In April 1996, four years after being expelled, Brother Kobayashi, now 21 years old, started back to school.
The decision was extensively reported on throughout the country, and Jehovah’s Witnesses rejoiced that Jehovah’s name and righteous ways were again brought to the public’s attention and that a favorable witness was given.—Matthew 10:18.
With the almost non-existent moral standards and resistance to violence & aggressive competition nowadays, (especially among males in our society), this story is *extra* impressive to me. The bar has dropped so low in recent years, that a man with principles has become one of the rarest commodities you can find...like a precious gemstone buried beneath heaps of dirty, jagged rocks! =)