The following are warning signs that Hector Avalos - a former Pentecostal faith healer who has a doctorate in divinity from Harvard University and teaches religion at Iowa State University - saw in the practices of the Universal Church. They apply to other religions as well.

He said worshippers of any faith should be on guard when:

* Their church uses threats or promises to get donations.

Universal Church pastors often tell members that if they don't give money, they will not receive God's blessings.

* The minister is wealthy.

The Universal Church's spiritual leader, Edir Macedo Bezerra, has three BMWs - one in his wife's name - and a Mercedes registered to his name.

* The church does no charitable work.

Universal Church officials say they cannot afford to do any charitable outreach in New York, but hope to in the future.

 

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