Rio de Janeiro's largest pentecostal church has won a legal battle to keep its doors open despite warnings not to hold large gatherings in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
A judge ruled on Thursday that there was no law in Rio de Janeiro restricting the Assembly of God Victory in Christ, led by Pastor Silas Malafaia from meeting in the capital, due to the outbreak.
A request filed by the Public Prosecutor's Office to suspend the church's public services was denied, despite recommendations from the Ministry of Health and local government to avoid crowds.
The public civil action was taken against the church after leader Malafaia released a video stating that "if everything closes, there will be a little door open in my church and I will be there."
Neste tempo, você não pode ser instrumento de notícias ruins. Eu explico a você. https://t.co/LWQhzndyaQ— Silas Malafaia (@PastorMalafaia) March 20, 2020
Judge Marcello de Sá Baptista stated that under the Federal Constitution "no one will be obliged to do or fail to do anything except under the law," explaining that the absence of legislation ordering services to stop meant he was "bound by the legal system."
The judge added that all citizens must follow the guidelines to contain the spread of the coronavirus but stressed that a recommendation is not the same as a duty imposed on a citizen.
The number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Brazil has risen to nearly 1000, while globally those testing positive for the virus exceeds 270,000.