Kaka's church accuses state of religious persecution over donations

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - The Reborn in Christ Church, a pentecostal group to which Brazilian footballer Kaka belongs, on Monday accused tax authorities of religious persecution in their decision to investigate Kaka's donations of almost 1.2 million dollars a year to the church. The magazine Carta Capital reported this weekend that Kaka's contributions are being investigated by Sao Paulo public prosecutor Marcelo Mendroni, who has reportedly asked justice officials in Milan for details on Kaka's financial links to the church.

The public prosecutor's office in Sao Paulo did not confirm the report, but the Reborn in Christ Church issued a statement Monday in which it accused Mendroni of an "affront on a religious belief, in an act that constitutes a persecution of those who follow a faith that they consider appropriate."

"It is the prosecutor that must give explanations, not Kaka, who earns his money fairly and can do with it whatever he wants," the statement says.

The church threatened to sue Mendroni, Carta Capital and the author of the magazine feature that revealed the investigation.

Brazilian international Kaka, awarded the Golden Boot and chosen as FIFA Player of the Year in 2007, is a devout follower of the Reborn in Christ Church. The talented attacking midfielder, 25, recently said that he hopes to become a pastor when he retires from football.

The pentecostal church was founded by the self-proclaimed bishops Estevam Hernandes and Sonia Hernandes, who are currently under house arrest in the United States after trying to enter the country with 56,000 dollars in undeclared funds.

The couple is also being investigated in Brazil over the alleged embezzlement of more than 70 million dollars of the church's assets.

Despite the allegations, Kaka remains faithful to the institution and handed over to its leaders the FIFA Player of the Year award, so that it can be exhibited in the church's headquarters.