Dodi's Dad Does A Deal With "Exorcism" Church

Dodi's Dad Does A Deal With "Exorcism" Church

New York Post / August 6, 20000
By Laura Italiano

How we told the story of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God.Dodi Fayed's wealthy father has helped a controversial international Pentecostal church gain a foothold in London - to the alarm of British authorities. Mohamed Al-Fayed, owner of the famed Harrods department store, has sold his radio station, Liberty Radio, to the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God for an undisclosed sum.

The church has been criticized in New York and abroad for allegedly using high-pressure tactics to collect an estimated $1 billion a year from its worshippers.

"Already, two senior staff members at the station have gone [quit], because they're dismayed about being taken over by a cult," said Jeevan Vasagar, who covered the sale for London's Guardian newspaper.

"The radio authorities here are keeping an eye on them," Vasagar said of the Brazilian-based Universal Church.

In an investigative report published last month, The Post revealed that Universal Church preachers at branches in four boroughs here told worshippers that God would bless them - and their "demons" would be exorcised - but only if they made hefty donations.

Radio is how the sect's Brazilian founder got his start. Edir Macedo Bezerra, who now lives in Purchase in Westchester County, launched his empire back in 1977 by preaching on a weekly religious show. Bezerra and his converts were so persuasive, the church has been able to expand to more than 2,000 branches in nearly 50 countries, according to Brazilian press accounts.

Representatives in the church's Manhattan headquarters declined to comment on the sale of the station, which has 50,000 listeners. But the station's new chief executive, Bishop Renato Cardoso, assured the Guardian's Alex Bellos that broadcasts would not be used to propagandize for the church.

The station has not as yet switched from its old talk-and-music format, but Cardoso conceded, that late at night, it would begin targeting people "in difficult situations."

"They will find there a voice of hope and they will be able to contact a number in order to receive help," Cardoso told The Guardian. Radio regulators will watch the station closely, Vasagar said, because the United Kingdom bans religious proselytizing on its airwaves.

"It's forbidden by our radio code - you can't convert someone or attempt to spread your religious messages," although broadcasts of religious services and music are permitted, Vasagar said.

"It's very different from Brazil and the U.S.," he said. The church owns no radio stations in the United States, but does air advertising programs, some of them on Spanish-language radio and television stations in New York.

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