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Universal Church of the Kingdom of God

In 2012 the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG) was sentenced by two different courts in Brazil. A judge in Lageado ordered the group to pay 20,000 reales for blackmailing a couple to make monetary and article donations. Furthermore, the cult will have to pay 80,000 reales in fines for contracting public policemen for private security services in Maranhão. In January 2013 Forbes magazine published a list of the richest evangelic ministries in Brazil. The first on the list was Edir Macedo, founder of UCKG and owner of an important communication empire. According to the magazine, Macedo is worth more than 950 million USD, but the Brazilian government estimates that amount actually to be higher. Macedo, leader of the UCKG, has had his autobiography published; it is called Nothing to Lose. The book is being widely sold in Latin America. In Mexico, for example, more than 35,350 copies were sold in 8 hours. In Brazil, the home of the first publication, more than 300,000 copies were sold in the first 3 months. In Argentina, more than 40,000 copies have been bought. In other countries such as Venezuela, Colombia, and Portugal, more than 20,000 copies per country have been sold. [IT 4.1 2013] 

The founder and leader of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, Edir Macedo, reportedly has caused various problems with his declarations in his official cult blog and his preachings. On one such occasion, he denied the first miracle of Christ (the transformation of water to wine in the weddings of Cana). Also, he asked his group for money as a sacrifice to God, and forbade the use of cell phones. [IT 4.1 2013] 
Universal Church of the Kingdom of God. On February 29 the president of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, named Senator Marcelo Crivella, member of the Brazilian Republican Party and “Bishop” of UCKG, as the new Minister of Fisheries. [IT 3.1, 2012] 
Three leading members of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, one of Brazil’s most powerful churches, with a claimed congregation of eight million around the world, have been charged in Sao Paulo with money laundering cash—£150 million—through offshore bank accounts. The accused include the controversial televangelist Edir Macedo, who founded the church in 1977.The prosecutor says that followers were tricked into giving money to the church by “false promises and threats that spiritual and economic assistance would be bestowed only upon those who made financial sacrifices for the church,” which promotes “prosperity theology”—believers are told that faith and regular, generous donations can help them gain material wealth. Church preaching is virulently anti-gay and against Afro-Brazilian religions. (Guardian, 9/13/11) [IT 2.3 2011] 
The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, an important neo-Pentecostal sect founded by Edid Macedo in Brazil, keeps growing between the immigrant populations in Spain, where currently the group uses the name of United Family. Among other recruiting strategies, it distributes a “blessed cross,” that supposedly erases all the problems of life. The same group is building in downtown Montevideo (Uruguay) a temple costing more than ten million dollars. In August, this group, also known as Stop Suffering in some countries, put up signs in Argentina with the following message: “Cancer has a cure, bring me the sick people to be healed.” [IT 2.3 2011]

Twenty-eight members of the Brazil-based Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (Igreja Universal do Reino de Deus) have filed separate lawsuits in seven states against journalist Elvira Lobato and the newspaper that employs her charging that they were insulted by her investigative report, “Universal turns 30 with business empire.” Although the report does not mention any of the litigants by name, some church followers say they have been harassed on the street since the article was published. The Folha de S. Paulo newspaper’s lawyer says: “It’s curious that the lawsuits’ descriptions of the harassment are the same, whether the people are from Paraíba or Rio Grande do Sul.” (The two states are located at opposite ends of the country.) He thinks the suits are “intended to inhibit the press and the journalist. You can imagine how difficult it is for a journalist to defend herself in lawsuits across such a large country.” Founder-leader of the evangelical church, Edir Macedo, who began with lower class people, is now gaining middle class converts, including doctors, economists, lawyers, and business owners. [csr 7.1 2008)

Universal Church of the Kingdom of God
A Zambia High Court judge has ruled that the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God can ask for a judicial review of the decision, not yet carried out and perhaps unfairly determined, to de-register it for alleged Satanist practices. The judge wants to see proof of rumored illegal activities. [csr 5.1 2006]

Manipulation for Cash
The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG), a Brazil-based evangelical group, is being criticized in Mexico for promising miracles in return for cash donations from parishioners. “They [the UCKG] work on people’s despair and their message is very effective in poor sectors,” says Elio Masferrer, an expert in Latin American religions. “It’s an organization structured to make money. Its growth has been meteoric.” [csr 4.1 2005]

In addition to regular donations, ministers urge congregants to give more money, saying God might then be moved to help save a dying loved-one, find a job, or bind a broken marriage. Says one: “My boyfriend ran off and married another woman. Ever since, I suffer. I cry. I can’t sleep. I want God to bring me peace. I’m unemployed, but if I find a job I’ll give a lot. A good service makes you want to give everything you have.”

Responding to government investigations to see whether the UCKG conforms to regulations for religious groups, the church says it’s being “persecuted like Jesus was.” Founded by Edir Macedo in 1977, UCKG, which has been probed in Britain and “blacklisted” in France, owns a leading Brazilian TV network, a bank, newspapers, and radio stations. A 1995 video shows Macedo teaching pastors how to raise cash and telling them that stingy people could “go to hell.” (Catherine Bremer, Reuters, 1/19/05) [csr 4.1 2005]

Church Recruits Poor Immigrants
The Brazil-based Universal Church of The Kingdom of God is growing in Japan, especially among poor immigrant Brazlilian workers who seek solace and prosperity in membership. The church promises that financial and social success can be attained after a believer’s evil spirits, which cause their problems, are eliminated. [csr 1.3 2002]

The church offers to provide a better life if members give themselves to God and pay high membership dues. Many followers say that membership has helped them break addictions and solve other problems while providing social support. Donating money helps build self-esteem, according to observer Cecilia Mariz, of Rio de Janeiro State University. “When you give money you feel rich,” she says. Some of the money reportedly supports the growth of the church, and some goes to charitable causes. But the church founder, Bishop Edir Macedo, has amassed a personal fortune of $100 million, according to some estimates.[csr 1.3 2002]

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