[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/12/17/story.jose.luis.de.jesus.jpg caption="Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda says he is God, and his followers believe him."]
He tells his followers he is God.
But Jose Luis De Jesus Miranda’s wife disagreed and was awarded a $2.2 million divorce judgment.
It may seem unusual for a church leader to claim he is divine and then go through a messy, public divorce, but De Jesus’ church has always been, well, unique.
His followers, many of whom are Hispanic and have left the Catholic Church for his take on Christianity, believe that he is both the reincarnation of Jesus Christ and the anti-Christ. Dozens of his followers in South Florida and in Latin America have had 666 –the number associated with the anti-Christ—tattooed on their bodies as a sign of their beliefs.
De Jesus tells the people who believe in him that there is no sin and that they are members of a “super race.”
One of those believers was De Jesus’ second wife Josefina Torres. But Torres told CNN in an interview that after five years of marriage she began to see through her husband and spiritual leader.
“It was like seeing a magician perform and then going backstage and you learn how he does the trick,” Torres said in Spanish.
Torres claimed in her divorce filing that De Jesus was unfaithful to her and abused her.
De Jesus never hid his taste for the high-life, bragging to CNN correspondent John Zarrella during an interview about the number of Rolexes he owns. He also admitted to enjoying expensive cars and homes in Florida and Texas paid for with church money.
But lawyers for Torres found during the divorce battle that De Jesus didn’t stop with expensive homes and cars. Attorneys filed records with the court that proved De Jesus had lost over $46,000 at one casino.
In a deposition, De Jesus explained his gambling losses this way, “When I win in a casino I report a loss because there is no proof that you kept– if I made $10,000, I report a loss."
Their leader’s spending habits did not seem to bother the parishioners at a church service who were approached by CNN last year after news of the divorce broke. Church members said they wanted De Jesus to be happy and would continue to give. Members of de Jesus church are encouraged to tithe or donate ten percent of their earnings.
Judge Roberto M. Pineiro, who heard the divorce case, observed in open court, “I really don’t know where the personal property starts and the church property ends.”
In the divorce settlement, Pineiro wrote that the church’s assets should be considered De Jesus’ property too. He ordered that De Jesus pay his ex-wife $2.2 million of his and the churches’ roughly $5 million in assets.
A statement released by the church blasted the judge’s “ignorant decision.”
The church “pronounces itself unable to pay any sum of money to Ms. Torres, as this is a personal divorce case and therefore not a matter of the Ministry. We will appeal this decision before a Superior Court and will resort to all necessary resources against Mr. Roberto Pineiro and his ruling,” the statement read.
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