“No state government has the power to suspend my mass,” barked evangelical preacher Silas Malafaia, on March 16. One of President Jair Bolsonaro’s most fervent supporters, Mr. Malafaia lobbied hard for the right to continue hosting the flock of his pentecostal Assembly of God church. A few days later, the president declared religious activities as “essential,” creating a middle ground in which only large services would be suspended, following the Health Ministry’s guidelines to avoid big gatherings — but small masses are allowed. Nevertheless, on Mother’s Day this past Sunday, the Assembly of God held a service for 300 people in São Paulo.
Not even a federal court order to remove churches and temples from the list of essential activities has compelled the president to change tack.