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The election of a controversial evangelical preacher, known for his vocal hardline views on homosexuality and racist remarks, as the chairman of the Brazilian legislature's human rights committee has earned the condemnation of religious groups and sparked protests around the country.
In a legislative protest marred by protests, congressman Marco Feliciano, a member of the Christian Social Party (PSC) was elected on 7 March, 2013 for the office of chairman of the Committee for Human Rights and Minorities (CDHM) in the Deputy Chamber [en] after a coalition of political parties scraped together the minimum number of votes necessary.
Feliciano, who is the head of the Assembléia de Deus [en] church, is an outspoken opponent of gay marriage and abortion, and currently is the subject of two Supreme Federal Court investigations – one for embezzlement, and the other for homophobic behavior, to which he responded in a message on Twitter on 31 March, 2011: “The putridity of the homosexual feelings leads to hate, crime, rejection”.
The site Carta Capital reported that during his inauguration speech, Feliciano denied that he is homophobic or racist. But the preacher has left a trail of comments behind him that ruthlessly attack homosexuality and the gay community and seem to demonize Africans.
In a speech delivered during an evangelical congress in September 2012, Feliciano referred to AIDS as the “gay cancer”.
The congressman wrote a post on his blog in September 2012 about AIDS and the gay community:
Todos sabemos que a chamada AIDS pode atingir qualquer pessoa independente de preferencia sexual mas a própria ciência revela o predomínio de infecção por esta doença em pessoas manifestamente homossexuais, tanto é verdade que quando se doa sangue na entrevista se for declinada a condição de homossexual essa doação é recusada.
We all know that the so-called AIDS can strike anyone, regardless of sexual preference, but science itself reveals the prevalence of infection by this disease in people who are manifestly gay, so much so that if one declares to be homosexual during the interview that preceeds the donation of blood, the act is refused on the grounds of being from a homosexual person.
In the video below, Feliciano vividly encourages his followers to stand against gay marriage:
The site CSP conlutas lists a roster of absurdities expressed by Feliciano, among them:
A maldição que Noé lança sobre seu neto, Canaã, respinga sobre o continente africano, daí a fome, pestes, doenças, guerras étnicas!
The curse that Noah launched against his grandson, Canaan, spilled over the African continent, thus the hunger, the plagues, the diseases, the ethnic wars!
“As pessoas só atacam quem incomoda. O senhor está fazendo a diferença. O povo de Deus é contigo”, escreveu uma simpatizante no Twitter. “Sei que fará uma gestão digna que lhe foi confiada”, comentou outro seguidor. “Pastor @marcofeliciano é um exemplo pra nossa geração! Um homem de Deus que não tem do que se envergonhar e merece nosso respeito”, acrescentou outro.
“People only attack those who upset them. You are making a difference. God's people stand by you”, wrote a sympathizer on Twitter. “I know you will do an honorable job of the power that has been vested in you”, observed another follower. “Preacher @marcofeliciano is a good example for our generation! A man of God who has nothing to be ashamed of and deserves our respect”, added another.
However, not all of the evangelical community support the preacher. Rede Fale, which represents 39 religious groups, condemned his election and launched a petition to remove the preacher from office.
In an open letter published on their site, Rede Fale states:
Os exemplos históricos de cristãos envolvidos com os Direitos Humanos são vários, figuras como a do pastor batista Martin Luther King Jr. ou do bispo anglicano Desmond Tutu nos inspiram por exatamente colocarem a fé como o motor para suas ações de promoção e defesa dos direitos.
There are several historical examples of Christian people involved with human rights, characters such as the Baptist preacher Martin Luther King Jr. or the Anglican bishop Desmond Tutu are inspirational exactly because they place faith as the engine for their actions towards the promotion and the defense of the human rights.
The blog Mistura Urbana wrote about how Feliciano's actions contradict the very religion he means to represent:
Fundamentados na desculpa da liberdade religiosa e liberdade de expressão, pessoas que deveriam estar comprometidas com o AMOR AO PRÓXIMO como o pastor e deputado Marco Feliciano e o milionário pastor Silas Malafaia preferem, escolhem, optam por inflamar multidões de religiosos com ódio, violência e preconceito. E ainda se posicionam como vítimas de uma militância gay odiosa e perseguidora (?!?!?!?!?!?).
Based on the excuse of freedom of religion and freedom of expression, people who should be committed to the LOVE THY NEIGHBOR principle, such as preacher and congressman Marco Feliciano and millionaire preacher Silas Malafaia prefer, choose, or opt for rousing crowds of religious people with speeches of hatred, violence, and prejudice. And, not content, position themselves as victims of a gay militancy who are filled with hatred and persecutive feelings (?!?!?!?!?!?).
Many people took to the streets after Feliciano's election to protest the move in several capital cities across Brazil. Netizens organized marches on Facebook and shared photos on the social networks. An Avaaz petition asking for the removal of Feliciano had gathered more than 442,000 signatures by 18 March, 2013.
Feliciano's election as chairman of the human rights committee was made possible thanks to other political parties giving up their posts on the committee to the Social Christian Party, to which Feliciano belongs. The committee consists of 18 members and currently it has five members of the Social Christian Party and six others from the evangelical bench. The blog O Diário reported:
Para viabilizar a eleição do deputado evangélico, o PSC teve o apoio do PMDB [Partido do Movimento Democrático Brasileiro] e do PSDB [Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira], que cederam suas vagas na comissão ao partido. Com apenas um membro no colegiado, hoje, durante a eleição, o PSC tinha cinco deputado membros. O PMDB cedeu duas vagas e o PSDB, mais duas. O partido também recebeu o apoio do PR [Partido da República], do PTC [Partido Trabalhista Cristão] e de um deputado do PSB [Partido Socialista Brasileiro], o Pastor Eurico.
So as to make possible the election of the evangelical congressman, the PSC [Social Christian Party] was backed by the PMDB [Brazilian Democratic Movement Party] that gave their vacancies in the committee to PSC. In spite of having just one member in the college, today, during the election, the PSC had five deputies as members. The PMDB gave two vacancies and the Brazilian Social Democracy Party, two others. The party also had the support of the PR [Party of the Republic], of the PTC [Labor Christian Party] and of a deputy from the PSB [Brazilian Socialist Party], the minister of the church, Eurico.
Jean Wyllys [en], a Socialism and Freedom Party [en] congressman and member of the committee on human rights, said in an interview in Rede Brasil Atual that Feliciano's election as committee chairman stems from political disputes and party negotiations underway in Brazil ahead of the presidential election in 2014. But Wyllys, a champion of LGBT rights, also added that “ideological disputes” related to Brazil's human rights also have to do with the direction the committee has taken.
The site Causa Operária published the final statement of Labor Party member Domingos Dutra, the outgoing committee chairman, before formally handing down the office to Feliciano on 7 March, 2013, in which he accused the party coalition of “dictatorship”:
“Me retiro nesse momento em nome do PT e me retiro em meio a uma ditadura que foi estabelecida aqui” (Congresso em Foco, 7/3/2013). A declaração do petista não invalida o fato que houve um acordão entre as lideranças partidárias para entregar a comissão para a bancada evangélica. A comissão que foi criada há 20 anos teve sua presidência dirigida majoritariamente pela esquerda, só o PT dirigiu 18 vezes.
“I withdraw now on behalf of the PT [Labor Party] and I withdraw amid a dictatorship which has been established here” (Congresso em Foco, 7/3/2013). The declaration made by the PT member does not preclude the fact that there was an agreement settled between the party leaderships in order to deliver the committee to the evangelical bench. The committee, created 20 years ago, has been chaired by the left most of the time, having been under the PT 18 times.