Brazilian church sues Lynn broadcaster for libel

Maranatha Christian Church, a Pentecostal organization serving Brazilians in the United States, says it's just not true it's shipping money to its parent organization in Brazil to buy convertible Lamborghinis for church leaders.

In a lawsuit filed yesterday in US District Court in Boston, the New Jersey-based organization - which has local churches in Everett, Framingham and Marlboro, accused broadcaster Beto Moraes of libel for making a series of such allegations about the use of donations by church members. The suit also names the owners of WLYN, who sell air time to Moraes.

The suit charges Moraes is making up his accusations of fraud against the church. In November, leaders of the church in Brazil were barred from their own offices as part of a government investigation into possible fraud related to church donations (article is in Portuguese).

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Lamborghinis?

There are no specific allegations about lambos in the article. It says that church functionaries were making false invoices to skim dollars which they used to buy personal property or smuggled out of Brazil in the suitcases of congregants. They also used congregants to smuggle AV equipment into Brazil. Or as they call it in Brazil, business as usual. Allegedly.

As Beto is repeating mostly things that have appeared in the press already, I don't think he's got much to worry about. He should ramp up and let the church members know that now their donations are not only going to money-laundering and fraud in Brazil but frivolous lawsuits in the US.

However This Turns Out...

However this turns out, it may shed light on the responsibility of radio-station owners who lease time to other individuals or groups for what they say. It's a regular occurrence lately for people who host "financial advice" broadcasts to be indicted for fraud. I haven't heard that the station owners were accused of wrongdoing however. This pattern of licensees turning over part or all of their broadcasting day to outside parties has become a standard-operating-procedure for low-rated (or UNrated stations, almost all AM outlets) to pay the bills. I was one of the first callers to MICHAEL G-R-A-A-H-A-M-M's show on WCRN-AM 830 in Worcester last Monday, and asked him if he and/or his associates were buying time on the station or if he was an employee of some entity getting a regular paycheck like when he was on WTKK-FM. They cut me off immediately after I sked the question and Graham went on a rant about capitalism vs "government Radio", his phrase for WGBH-FM. (It isn't).

Has there been any conclusion to this case?

As a non-lawyer, I can't see all that's gone on in the case. Is there a way for anyone here to see if it's been concluded yet? If so, who won? Talking with one former member and legal professional I was told

"If the defendants can prove that the accusations are TRUE, then [the] case fails. If enough of them were false that it constitutes substantial mischaracterization of the church and damage to its reputation, then [they win]. To win any money, though, [they] will have to prove some kind of damages - people left the church or tithes dropped off or whatever. Also remember that 95% of cases settle before going to trial. Probably the radio/paper's insurance company will step in and just pay a token settlement to [this group]."

There is a HUGE scandal going on in Brazil right now for this group (a number of the former leaders are in jail so that the case can move forward with less hindrance, although the actual money crimes are still being determined, so more jail time beyond that is yet to be determined). From reading the news articles, I didn't see a whole lot of differences between what was being reported down there, and what this radio broadcasted (although there was at least one example, which seemed to go beyond what the media there reported, which this radio station probably should not have mentioned at all).

This group is pretty small up here in North America and largely unknown. I can't see what damages they actually could have to justify this case. Only those who know about this group already who are Brazilians, who at this point know about this due to national media coverage. I know they are sending out all kinds of lawsuits since this scandal began, which reminded me of what other groups in scandals did to try to silence things.

Not much has happened with the case

Both parties (Moraes and Multicultural Radio Broadcasting) filed their responses in April, both denied the allegations and said Moraes was exercising his First Amendment right (and similar right under the Mass. constitution) to express his opinion.

Federal suits tend to move really slowly, so it could be some time before the case ever actually goes to trial - if they two sides don't reach a settlement first.