"It's about the money." Those are the words of  Texas housewife Victoria Lorenzo about the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God:

    "New York people, please! I don't want to happen to them what happened to me," she told The New York Post (7/23/00).

    Lorenzo said the church soaked her family for $60,000 in donations in only three years.

    She has lost nearly everything, she said - her family cleaning business, her home and her car. Her marriage was shattered under the strain.

    She has also lost her faith.

    "I believe in nobody," she said angrily. "He broke my faith," she said of her former pastor. "He broke it very, very badly.

    "Oh, no, oh no, I cannot forget what the Universal Church did to my life."

    Lorenzo filed a complaint with the Texas attorney general's office against a Houston branch of the church.

    The defectors claimed, among other things, that they were given "sacred oils" in exchange for generous donations.

    The "sacred oils" turned out to be cheap supermarket olive oil, said Ludy Karr, another former Texas church member.

    Texas officials say their hands are tied in pressing charges against the church.

    "There's a problem here, but we cannot legally sue," said Heather Browne, spokeswoman for the Texas state attorney.

    She said investigators found that church members gave their money voluntarily; no laws were broken. The probe died earlier this year.

    "My family told me not to give all my money," said one Manhattan believer, who asked her name not be used. "But this is the way I profess my faith."

    "It's legal!"

    "He doesn't force people to give - he makes them want to give," said Justino, who left his church post in Brooklyn's Boerum Hill after a decade of preaching for Macedo in Brazil, Portugal and New York.

    A Brazilian news show broadcast film leaked out of the church by a former pastor. film showed Macedo gleefully counting piles of money and telling pastors,

If they [churchgoers] don't pay, they can get out!

Macedo warns his flock, 

Beware detractors.  Avoid, at any cost, talk, discussions or contacts which can jeopardize your salvation.


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