Security at Brazil’s Universal Church Threatens Journalist

Universal temple at João Dias Avenue, in Santo Amaro
Brazilian photojournalist Luiz Carlos Gomes, of Brazil's largest and arguably most influential daily newspaper, Folha de S. Paulo, in São Paulo, says he was threatened in the early hours of August 14, 2009, by a Universal Church security guard. Gomes was accompanied by the newspaper's driver and was taking pictures of the front of the temple.

According to the photographer, he was shooting the church's temple at João Dias avenue, in Santo Amaro, south side of São Paulo, from the sidewalk when one of the guards told him: "You can't take photographs here." Gomes did not stop and one of the guards opened the gate and approached Gomes with his hand inside his coat, pretending to be armed.

The security guard reportedly said: "I will shoot (at) the car if you do not leave here now."

Gomes approached a police car that was on the street and reported what had happened. The police officer reportedly said: "Yeah, sorry buddy, but I can't do anything. Those guys are from the eleven (11th Police District), they are all police."

Gomes and the newspaper's driver went to the 11th Police District of São Paulo to report the incident.

According to the journalist, the clerk who received them did not want to note in the report that a police car was in the area. However, after Gomes insisted, the information was added.

According to the Universal Church's Press Office, "the board has not spoken about the matter yet."

In 2007, Folha de S. Paulo published a report about the conglomerate of companies that belongs to the Universal Church. Over one hundred actions were afterwards filed all across the country by the followers of the Universal Church against the newspaper.

The author of the report, Elvira Lobato, went on to win the Esso Prize of Journalism, the most prestigious Brazilian prize for the press, in 2008. In early August 2009, ten members of the Universal Church were charged with money laundering.

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