- From: Macaé, Rio de Janeiro
- Registered: 2010-06-20
- Posts: 3833
Separation of Church and State - Avoid the Culture Shock
For all expats coming to Brazil from countries that truly have separation of church and state don't expect to find that in Brazil.
First of all, I have nothing whatsoever against the Catholic faith. Quite to the contrary, I respect all religions and I am also a deeply religious person - so please don't get me wrong.
Having said that, I firmly believe that the church (any church) has no place in state, nor the state in church. That is to say that no religion should dictate the policies of government, the laws or judicial system of any country. Government should also respect the fundamental right of the individual to exercise his/her own religious beliefs without unnecessary interference. (By that I mean that government should only limit my religious freedom where it poses a danger to the life, health, safety or wellbeing of another).
One must understand that Brazil's origins are intertwined with the Catholic faith. So much so that it pervades every aspect of Brazilian society including politics, government, the judiciary and the countries very constitution. Separation of church and state exists only in name here. One need only watch the television news of some criminal trial and you will see a crucifix prominently placed on the wall directly behind the judge. Strange for a country that claims to be multicultural, since this clearly demonstrates that this multiculturalism does not extend to the religious beliefs of all of the country's residents regardless of their place of origin.
I come from Canada and firmly believe that a truly multicultural country is one that embraces the human rights, culture and religion of all individuals who choose to take up residence there and allows them to retain their identity in its entirety. Canadians have given up many of their own traditions and do not impose their religious beliefs on everyone in the nation. We have changed Christmas and Easter observations because we recognize that not all of our residents are Christian. We no longer see children reciting the Lord's Prayer in school as we once did, out of respect for the non-Christian members of our society. Our laws are neither determined by the beliefs of any specific religion nor are they fashioned after them.
The recent issue in Brazil of whether or not abortion should be legal in cases of anencephalic fetuses is a classic case in point of the interference of church on what should be state matters. when you have political parties which espouse the beliefs of a particular religion, associations within the judiciary that represent judges of a specific faith and the laws are rife with Catholic doctrine there can be no such thing as separation of church and state.
I am pro-life, I don't believe that abortion should be used simply as a means of contraception, as it often is. However, like most Canadians I also believe that where a pregnancy endangers the life or health of a woman it should not be outrightly banned and criminalized. In Canada abortion is neither legal nor illegal, it is treated simply as any other medical procedure. The universal health system of Canada also pays for the procedure. Yes, there are debates. Yes, people align themselves on both sides of the issue, but in the end a woman is free to do what her moral, religious and ethical beliefs dictate and that which doctors deem appropriate.
I find it repugnant that the (male) president of the Association of Catholic Jurists/RJ, Paulo Leão, would appear on national television and, in true dictator fashion, try to demand that the host accept only his opinions on the subject when the (female) professor of Constitutional Law clearly stated the case for women's rights and the constitutionality of abortion in such cases. It was almost like this man was candidating himself for the position of "Pope of Brazil".
If it weren't so sad it would almost be funny whenever the debate on abortion begins in most places on the planet, those who shout the loudest and make dogmatic demands are a bunch of fat, old, lazy, male politicians or judges who for the most part are also of the Catholic or fundamentalist faiths and believe that we should all adhere to THEIR beliefs over anyone else's. They essentially wish to DICTATE to a woman what she can and cannot do with HER OWN BODY.
For the present it appears that common sense will reign in the Federal Supreme Court. They tend to equate anencephaly with brain death and hold the view that in this limited case the fetus is NOT alive and since their is no life therefore there is no abortion taking place (as abortion is defined by law). Three cheers for the Supreme Court for placing some value on women's rights.
Last edited by wjwoodward (2012-04-21 21:56:05)
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