Religion: EVANGELICALISM IN BRAZIL

Article excerpt

Although Brazil is still home to the world's largest number of Catholics, the Evangelical Church has made huge inroads over the past 20 years. The number of Brazilians identifying as Evangelical more than doubled from 9 percent in 1991 to 20 percent in 2010, according to a joint study by the Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística and Fundação Getúlio Vargas. The survey also showed that the number of self-identified Catholics dropped from 83 percent to 68 percent over the same period.

This has had a major impact on Brazilian society and politics.

Evangelicals' political influence is on the rise. According to the Interunion Parliamentary Advisory Department, the Evangelical caucus in Congress has increased by 50 percent since the previous term, to 63 representatives and three senators. Although that is a small proportion of the 513 representatives and 81 senators, the unofficial Evangelical contingent is higher since the caucus accepts only those with direct church ties.

Neo-Pentecostals, the fastestgrowing group among Brazil's Evangelicals, aim to expand their political influence by electing fellow believers and by investing in entertainment.

The strength of Evangelical influence becomes apparent when issues that touch on their religious concerns-including abortion and same-sex marriage-are debated.

In May 2012, the Evangelical Parliamentary Front, working in coalition with the Catholics, tried to overturn an April 2012 Supreme Court ruling that broadened legal abortion to instances where the fetus is missing part of the brain and skull. Previously, abortion was limited to cases of rape or a threat to the mother's life.

To this end, the Evangelical-Catholic coalition sponsored a bill to limit the power of the executive branch to enforce Supreme Court rulings and a second bill that calls on Congress to overturn the ruling.

Similarly, the coalition is expected to reject a proposal making its way through Congress that defines a civil union as between two people regardless of gender. In May, the human rights committee in Brazil's Senate approved the change.

Outside Congress, political influence is bolstered by an extensive network of media holdings. …