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Monday, 06 June 2011 00:00
Religious Freedom Ranking:
3 out of 5 stars: Needs Improvement


BrazilBrazil has an area of 3,287,612 square miles and a population of 193 million. Nearly all major religions are represented here. Some people belong to more than one church and participate in the rituals of more than one religion. The 2000 census indicated that nearly 74 percent of the population identified itself as Roman Catholic. About 15.4 percent of them are Protestant. There were more than 215,000 Buddhists, 3,000 Hindus, and 152,000 adherents of other eastern religions.

There are no registration requirements for religious groups, and none is favored as a state religion, although the Catholic Church still exercises considerable influence. The following religious holidays are recognized as national or regional holidays: Saint Sebastian's Day, Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, Corpus Christi, Saint John's Day, Our Lady of Carmen (Carmo), the Assumption, Our Lady Aparecida, All Souls' Day, Evangelicals' Day, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and Christmas.

In 2009, a civil suit in São Paulo demanding the removal of religious symbols from the public areas of federal buildings was dismissed by the São Paulo Court of Appeals on the grounds that a display of a crucifix "does not glorify Catholicism but rather is testimony of one of the worst trials in history."

Religions are free to establish their own places of worship and train their own clergy. Public schools are required to offer religious instruction, but religious instruction is optional for students.

The law prohibits any display of or broadcast of anti-Semitism or racism, with a punishment of fines or imprisonment for two to five years for violations. In 2009 an injunction was filed against several television stations that maligned certain religions.

The Federal Republic of Brazil adopted a new constitution in 1988. Lawrence Tribe, a Harvard Professor considered an expert in civil rights and constitutional law helped to formulate the Constitution. The document declares "the freedom of conscience and belief is inviolable, the freedom to hold religious services is assured, and protection of the sites of religious services and their liturgies is guaranteed pursuant to law." The Constitution also forbids the government from establishing churches, impeding the functions of churches, subsidizing churches, or maintaining an alliance with their representatives. In other words, the Constitution maintains the separation of church and state and defines the parameters of that policy. The right of conscientious objection for religious purposes is provided for. Chaplains for civilian and military prisons are assured by law. All churches, regardless of denomination are tax exempt.

The government requires that missionary groups seek permission from the National Indian Foundation before conducting their activities in official indigenous areas.  In the early 1980’s, the Unification Church underwent a period of persecution. However, this has largely disappeared today. Nevertheless, missionaries and religious workers of various faith traditions, even those who have come to assume long term or permanent positions, have complained of being unable to obtain long-term visas.

2010 U.S. State Department International Religious Freedom Report on Brazil

Brazil - New World Encyclopedia

Last Updated on Tuesday, 27 September 2011 20:54