Brazilian Supreme Court allows states to close churches

supreme court churches
Supreme Court Chief Justice Luiz Fux presiding over remote trial. Photo: Fellipe Sampaio/SCO/STF

As expected, the full Supreme Court bench overwhelmingly struck down an injunction issued over the weekend which allowed religious services in churches and places of worship across Brazil. The decision came from Justice Nunes Marques — the newest member of the court —, nominated by President Jair Bolsonaro in October last year.

The 9-2 majority made sure to debunk claims that restrictions on in-person worship constitute a violation of people’s religious freedom. Televised services, for instance, are permitted.

Over the Easter weekend, Justice Marques said “because we experience such hard times, religious activities are all the more essential.” Justice Gilmar Mendes responded on Monday, issuing an injunction in another case which went against his colleague’s decision, exposing a rift within the Supreme Court.

Health experts fear that the decision could have worsened Brazil’s already brutal wave of coronavirus infections. Over 20 states allowed churches to reopen on Easter.

For the past six weeks, Brazil has broken record after record for new coronavirus deaths. Last week, health officials confirmed almost 20,000 new casualties.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, prominent Evangelical leaders have downplayed the severity of Covid-19 and preached against restrictive measures. According to pollster Datafolha, Evangelical Christians are more likely to be opposed to restrictive measures. Almost half of Brazilian Evangelicals are not afraid of catching Covid-19, more than any other group.