On the same day the Conservative Political Action Conference rolled a literal golden idol of Donald Trump onto the floor, a representative for a Japanese cult - whose leader is viewed is a messianic figure from the planet Venus - will address the crowd for the tenth year in a row.
CPAC is an annual meeting of conservative lawmakers and activists and often draws numerous special interest speakers - like the CO2 Coalition, a climate change denial group seeking to educate the public about the "important contribution made by carbon dioxide to our lives and economy" - as well as conservative entertainers and influencers hoping to grow their brands.
Vice News reported that Hrioaki "Jay" Aeba, a well-known Japanese conservative, is scheduled to host his tenth discussion at CPAC on Friday. He plans to talk about China as a threat to US power, and will take the stage shortly after Donald Trump Jr.
Mr Aeba is the chairman of the Japanese Conservative Union, which is a right-wing political group, and founded his own version of CPAC in Japan.
However, he is also associated with the Happy Science cult, which sells "miracle cures" for Covid-19. Mr Aeba's ties to the cult are not included in his CPAC speaker biography.
Sarah Hightower, a researcher and expert on Japanese cults, told Vice News that cult's beliefs included the ability for their leader to channel various people, including gods.
“Happy Science is a Japanese cult run by a man who claims to be the incarnation of multiple Gods while pretending to channel the psychic spirits of anyone from Quetzalcoatl to Bashar al-Assad to Natalie Portman,” she said.
Mr Aeba has worked to further the cult’s interests internationally and has worked to cultivate close ties with US conservatives figures.
The Happiness Realization Party, the cult’s political apparatus, champions ultranationalist causes, like inflating Japan's population by making birth easier for Japanese women. The end goal would be to turn Japan into an economic powerhouse thanks to its population boom.
So far, no HRP candidate has won an election in Japanese parliament, though the group has gained popularity as it has grown closer to the American right.
The HRP is not the only cult rubbing shoulders with the GOP. The Epoch Times, which carried water for Donald Trump and his brand of conservativism for the majority of his time as a public political figure, is funded by the Falun Gong cult in China.
“Look at things like The Family, QAnon or even Epoch Times,” Ms Hightower said. “The GOP are willing to openly and flagrantly cooperate with groups many people would call ‘cults.’”
This story was corrected to appropriately describe Mr Aeba’s role. Mr Aeba is not the leader of Happy Science. The cult is led by Ryuho Okawa.
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