A recent report by Forbes magazine listing the richest pastors in Brazil has sparked criticism of evangelical leaders in the country.
One of the pastors mentioned in the list, Silas Malafaia, has promised to file a lawsuit against the magazine for its "shamless" report. Other evangelical leaders have also spoken out against the news saying it presents religion as a profitable business and infringes on the private finances of individuals.
Forbes carried out an investigation into the net worth of the most popular evangelical leaders in Brazil, allegedly basing the figures on numbers reported by Brazil's Public Ministry of the Union and Federal Police.
The magazine said it also used estimates of the value of each pastor's private holdings, Brazilian media has reported, including magazines Veja, Exame, IstoÉ, IstoÉ Dinheiro and newspapers Folha de S. Paulo, O Globo and O Estado de S. Paulo.
The investigation listed the five wealthiest ministers as: Edir Macedo, leader of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God ($950 million); Valdemiro Santiago, of the World Church of the Power of God ($200 million); Silas Malafaia, president of Victory in Christ Assembly of God ($150 million), RR Soares, of the International Church of the Grace of God ($125 million) and the married couple Estevam Hernandes and Sonia, of the Reborn in Christ Church ($65 million).
Pastor Silas Malafaia, who was included in the list, has denied that the information reported is anywhere near accurate, claiming that all the money from his church, as well as other ministries and companies he is connected with, and offerings and donations received by them, would not even reach half of the amount ($150 million) listed by Forbes as his personal wealth.
"All my personal wealth and income are stated in the Brazilian IRS. I have nothing to fear or to owe. To say that my income information was given by the Public Ministry of Brazil and Federal Police is a serious affront to these institutions because they do not have legal authority to provide this kind of information", he said, according to his church's website.
Malafaia has since promised to file a lawsuit against Forbes Brazil to prove that the information is a lie and wholly inaccurate.
The president of the Brazilian Association of Evangelical Jurists (ANAJURE), Dr. Uziel Santana expressed his concern about a possible infringement of the confidentiality of the pastor's banking and tax information.
Uziel said, "whatever the merits of the issue, it is serious the fact that there was possible infringement of the data protected by bank and tax secrecy. This is so violent as to turn faith into a market, deceiving those who have less discernment of the reality”.