Brazil's largest evangelical church is facing several court cases alleging that it forces pastors to undergo vasectomies to advance in the organization.
Several ex-pastors have said that the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God forced or pressured them to undergo vasectomies.
In the most recent case, courts in São Paulo condemned the church to pay R$115,000 ($29,000) to Clarindo de Oliveira for moral and material damages. Oliveira worked for the church between 1994 and 2010 in Brazil and Honduras.
Universal was founded in 1977 in Rio de Janeiro by Bishop Edir Macedo – owner of the television company record – and has become one of the most successful evangelical churches in the world. In 2009 Universal had over 4,700 temples in 172 countries. The church claims to have over 12 million members worldwide.
According to ex-pastors, to remain or advance in the institution, men were required to undergo a vasectomy. They allege that the policy was to make the childless pastors more available to the institution and reduce complications when moving them between locations.
Prosecutor for the Oliveira Case, Silvana Ariana, said that the practice of imposing vasectomies was common by Universal. “ This is a serious violation of workers rights to have free control of their own body without the interference of the employer in the life of the employee,” Ariana said.
Universal denies that it imposed a vasectomy on any of its employees and said that the church encourages family planning. The Gazette of the Universal Church says that the non-favorable cases are the exception and that the majority of court cases have favored the church.
Oliviera, in an interview with Brazilian website Folha de São Paulo, said that Universal would punish those that failed to follow through with the procedure. “You were removed from your church and sent to another, you would have your salary reduced, they would place you in worse housing,” said Oliviera.
At least five cases similar to Oliviera’s have been taken to court, and 80 more are in development. In April of last year, Universal was ordered to pay an ex-pastor R$150,000 ($38,684.) In 2014 the church was found guilty of promising to promote a pastor to the bishop if he underwent a vasectomy.
The church says that the idea that vasectomies are forced to progress in the organization is false and can be disproven by the clear number of high ranking bishops and officials that have children.
In a statement, the church said that “there are over 3000 naturally born children of members of the ecclesiastic body of the church.”
Universal has faced several controversies over the years, including accusations that it acted as a front for money laundering and fraud. Several former members told the Rio Times that the church focused excessively on withdrawing wealth from its congregants.