By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – A federal judge in Rio de Janeiro has annulled the concession of diplomatic passports to evangelical bishop Edir Macedo, founder and leader of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, and his wife.
Bishop Macedo and his wife were granted diplomatic passports by Brazil’s Foreign Affairs Ministry on Monday.
On Tuesday afternoon, however, Rio de Janeiro federal judge Vigdor Teitel granted a request against the issuance of the diplomatic passports and suspended the decree that guaranteed Macedo and his wife the special documents.
“The actions of a religious leader, in the performance of Church activities, even in favor of the Brazilian communities abroad, does not mean that he represents an interest of the country that would justify the additional protection embodied by the diplomatic passport,” said the magistrate.
The judge added that “there is a risk of damage to morality in the use of the diplomatic passport without the unequivocal demonstration of public interest that justifies it.”
Rules for diplomatic passports
A Brazilian decree establishes rules and guidelines for the granting of diplomatic passports and lists twelve categories of authorities that may hold them, including the President, the vice-president, former presidents, cabinet members, state governors, Congressional representatives, diplomats, and military on missions. None of the categories, however, apply to the Bishop and his wife.
Nonetheless, a paragraph in the decree has a loophole for the granting of diplomatic passports to persons who “carry it in the interest of the country.” It was in this condition that Macedo and his wife were granted the documents, according to Foreign Affairs Minister Ernesto Araújo.
Macedo, who is also the owner of one of Brazil’s largest TV conglomerates, carried a diplomatic passport since the Lula administration. His diplomatic passport was renewed during the Dilma Rousseff and Michel Temer administrations.
The diplomatic passport gives holders privileges like preferential treatment at immigration posts and visa waivers in some countries. Diplomatic passports are valid for three years.