After protests from members of the PT (Partido dos Trabalhores or Workers’ Party) and PSOL (Partido Socialismo e Liberdade or Socialism and Liberty Party), members of the Comissão de Direitos Humanos e Minorias da Câmara (Commission on Human Rights and Minorities of the House), the PSC (Partido Social Cristão or Christian Social Party) recommended Pastor Marco Feliciano (of São Paulo), accused of homophobia and racism, was elected with 11 votes of the 12 members present, one more than the minimum required to be elected. One vote was blank.
The election for the office of pastor was possible because, during negotiations in Congress, the PMDB (Partido do Movimento Democrático Brasileiro or Brazilian Democratic Movement Party), PSDB (Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira or Brazilian Social Democracy Party) and PT gave their vacancies on the committee to the PSC. Moreover, the majority of members of the commission are evangelicals who support the pastor.
Tweets from Feliciano: 1) “On the African continent rests the curse of paganism, occultism, miseries, illnesses from there: ebola, AIDs, hunger, etc.” 2) “Africans descend from an ancestral curse by Noah. This is a fact. The motive of the curse is the controversy. It’s not being irresponsible twitter lol.” 3) “Being possible the first Act of homosexualism in history. The curse of Noah on Canaan touches his direct descendants, the Africans.”
At the center of the controversy are a series of statements and Tweets that the prominent deputy made such as “AIDS is a gay cancer”, “Black is black and cannot change, unlike homosexuals” and “Africans are descended from an ancestral curse by Noah.” (1)
In response, posted on the website Pragmatismo Político was the following message:
“All who have mobilized to collect signatures in so many other of the most diverse causes should not allow anyone recognized for intolerance to preside over a Commission as important as that of Human Rights. Sign the petition here that demands the immediate dismissal of Pastor Marco Feliciano from Presidency of the Human Rights Commission of the Federal Câmara.”
After being elected, Feliciano denied being homophobic and racist, and that he will work “as a magistrate” in front of the Commission.
The election was conducted by the oldest member of the committee, the Evangelical deputy Costa Ferreira (PSC-MA), after which the then-President Domingos Dutra (PT-MA), resigned in protest at the meeting behind closed doors, without the presence of protesters, as determined by the president of the Câmara (House), Henrique Eduardo Alves (PMDB-RN).
“Not even the dictatorship dared to block access of the people to this House. This commission is not evangelicals or Catholics, but of the people,” said Dutra, who refused to conduct the election.
In prostest to the naming of Feliciano (PSC-SP) to the presidency of the commission, all Members of the PT and PSOL withdrew from the commission.
Besides Dutra, deputies Father Ton (PT-RD), Erika Kokay (PT-DF), Jean Wyllys (PSOL-RJ), Luiza Erundina (PSB-SP), Couto (PT-CP) and Janet Pieta (PT -SP) also voted no.
Feliciano’s election came amid heated debates among evangelicals deputies and defenders of the rights of homosexuals and blacks.
Amidst the controversy, Feliciano made the following quote: “It never crossed my mind to chair the Commission on Human Rights, but now with so much attack, I have the will.”
The willingness posted on Twitter by the deputy, writer, singer and TV presenter is the result of a sustained barrage of criticism since his Partido Social Cristão (Christian Social Party) was chosen to head the committee responsible for the defense of minorities in the House. The congressional block of the party has deputies. Feliciano has declared himself opposed to battle issues such as marriage between people of the same sex.
The choice of the PSC for the commission provoked outrage in human rights groups. The criticisms were led here by Congressman Jean Wyllys (PSOL-RJ), defender of the gay rights in Congress that saw the choice as a way to “stop the extension of full citizenship to minorities.” “The hand of PT having given up the CDHM (Comissão de Direitos Humanos e Minorias or Minority of Human Rights and Minorities) is symptomatic of a party penchant for conservatism and maintenance of power that is irreversible,” he wrote.
The aversion seems justified. In September, Wyllys expressed outrage in an article published on the website Brazil 247, to a speech made by the Deputy/pastor at an Evangelical congress in which he referred to AIDS as the “gay cancer”. The PSOL deputy classified the speech as “a show of intellectual dishonesty and slander against homosexuals”, and presented figures, based on UN studies, to show that the association between the disease and sexual orientation was based on ignorance, but not in reality.
Feliciano’s response, quoted to represent minorities accused by him of spreading sexually transmitted diseases, was a jewel. On his website, he wrote, with the plight worthy of a 12-year old child, that, within the church, the Constitution had guaranteed full freedom of expression. Seated in that total freedom, he insisted: “Science itself reveals the predominance of infection by this disease in people manifestly homosexuals, is so true that when one donates blood in the interview if the homosexual condition was declined this donation is refused.”
Obviously, the congressman didn’t fail to mention that he had “nothing against” homosexuals. He explained in this way that the Bible teaches us to love the sinner and not the sin.
After having your name mentioned as a potential minority leader in the House, the congressman told the website of the newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo, on Thursday 28, the commission became a space of the defense of “privileges” of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals. “If there is someone who understands what is the right of minorities and who has suffered prejudice and persecution it is the PSC, Christianity was the religion that has suffered most on Earth today.” Shortly after, he returned to Twitter to say: “I was forced to give Block’s to some troublemakers. Did the big-mouthed team see this? Do something contrary to the LGTB and be ready to be massacred.”
When session of the Human Rights Commission of the Chamber of Deputies resumed early on Thursday (March 7th) it was restricted to deputies (congressmen), servers and the media. The commission has 18 members, five are from the Social Christian Party (PSC) and the other six are from the Evangelical congressional bloc.
Deputy Jair Bolsonaro of the Partido Progressista, considered a representative of Brazil’s extreme right and no stranger to making controversial statements, is an ally of Marco Feliciano and defended the pastor-deputy’s name for the presidency of the Commission on Human Rights and Minorities.
Protesters could not follow the session. Upon arrival, deputy Bolsonaro (PP-RJ) argued with the protesters. “Go back to the zoo,” he said a group of militants from the Movimento Negro (black movement).
The target of demonstrations in at least seven cities on Saturday, Feliciano wants to unite Evangelicals and Catholics in an act of reparation to him. Through social networks, the parliamentarian, pastor and founder of Tempo de Avivamento (Revival Time) Evangelical church, convened religious leaders to discuss, on Monday night, the future of the church before what he calls the “battle against Brazilian family.”
Feliciano intend to use the service that is usually celebrated on Mondays in the largest temple of his church, in Ribeirão Preto (interior of São Paulo state), to answer charges of racism and homophobia to embezzlement that he has received. “We are experiencing the greatest of all battles against the Brazilian family, and the church is being bombarded by lies insinuated by LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) groups, which plans to divide and destroy our churches and families, using politics and discrimination as a weapon,” said the notice, published on the deputy’s Facebook page on Saturday afternoon.
Even in social networks, Feliciano said yesterday he was “slaughtered” by what he calls “persecution.” “I got home this morning shot down by persecution. But to receive the affection of my wife and my daughters, my soul is renewed,” he wrote on the micro-blogging page.
During Feliciano’s inauguration, he denied being racist. “The work that we will perform here will show the Brazilian people. If I had committed this crime of racism, the first person I would have to ask for forgiveness in life would be my mother […]. A lady of black matrix , only not having a black tone, only her skin is not black – but her blood is black, her lips are black, her heart is, as I am,” he said.
On Sunday evening, the pastor was the target of another protest in front of the temple of his church in Franca (SP): 150 people held signs and chanted “I love men, I love women, I love who I wish.” The Military Police was called, but there was no rioting. In worship, Feliciano said he was “very happy with everything that is happening.”
“It is a sign that we are bothering the kingdom of darkness,” he said, comparing himself to the Martin Luther King Jr., assassinated in 1968: “If you want to shoot at my chest, feel free.”
Upon leaving the church, protesters surrounded the car of the deputy, shouting “out, Feliciano.” Protected by police, the car departed without disturbance.
Saturday, after the demonstrations, he mocked the low ratings of the act against him held in São Paulo, by posting a picture on Twitter and writing “look at the crowd.” Accused of racism, he posted a photo in which he appears hugging his mother, Maria Lúcia Feliciano, and his stepfather, who is black.
Note from BW of Brazil: As outrageous as this story is on its own merit, it’s even more amazing that Feliciano descends into provoking the name of MLK, Jr, a popular defense being used in Brazil nowadays by those of right-leaning political persuasion to defeat popular movements in support of black equality such as the fight for quotas in federal universities. By arguing that MLK was in favor of judging one by the content of one’s character rather than the color of the skin, anti-affirmative action debaters portray the system of quotas as being racist.
Feliciano also employs another common response used by Brazilians who are accused of being racist: the promotion of their racial history. As people can see themselves as being white in Brazil even having African ancestry, defendants make sure to mention their black relatives or, in Feliciano’s case, pose with his mother and stepfather. The internet is literally full of Brazilians who at the accusation of being racist, immediately point to a black relative as if this fact alone exonerates them from possibly being racist.
Here, in response to another case of racism covered here, a lawyer explains how a racist uses this defense: “When the assailant perceives the extension of the damage, he tries to minimize it, saying that “it’s not quite like this, you interpreted me wrong, I am not a discriminator, in my family, my grandmother was black.”
“This is my ancestry. My grandmother was black and my great-grandmother a daughter of slaves. I am proud of this. I only mentioned this because you called me racist.”
“My grandmother was black and I have already gone out with black and mulata girls…I am not racist.”
“It seems that with those phrases that one says in front of police authority “I am not racist, my grandmother was black”, “I am not prejudiced, my uncle was gay.”
Feliciano’s evoking of his racial history was lost upon José Ricardo who posted the following comment:
“Marco Feliciano, the racist and homophobic deputy-pastor is not white, his yellowish skin color and straightened hair composes the image of a mestiço (mixed race) type who sees himself as a white man of the second category. African origin cursing with basis in the Bible revives ancient, obscurantist prejudices to oppress and exploit popular credulity. To continue to deceive, one is not exempt from exposing his own black family to ridicule and the tragic irony of their positions. In his hypocritical attempt to prove that even being black he can contribute to anti-black racial oppression herding other blacks fragile as he in their identity and submitted to the wiles of power that exploits, oppresses and reduces citizenship and free will to the religious rules of false prophets and merchants of faith.”
1. The idea of Africans being cursed is not a new idea in Brazil. From the Brazilian elite ideology of whitening the population through progressive racial mixture with Europeans to the current treatment of African immigrants and racism against its own population of African descent, Brazil continues to discriminate against visible African ancestry.
Source: Pragmatismo Político (1) (2), Portal Fiel, Tribuna da Bahia, Globo (1), (2)