• Guilherme Brasil de Souza



The following work attempts to trace the historic roots of the Brazilian government’s discrimination towards the religious freedom rights of Jews and Sabbatarian Christians exhibited in the application of the ENEM in 2009 and 2010. This research article defends the thesis that the modern Brazilian Constitutional arguments for denying religious accommodations on national exams for Sabbatarians on grounds of laicite, state preference of religion or equality under the laws derive from an anti–liberal legal Brazilian tradition. This paper diachronically argues that this tradition of denying exemptions for minorities developed as a result of Brazil’s republican history and authoritarian dictatorial past in order to promote a particularly secularized Christian establishment.

This paper begins by tracing the historical roots of legal arguments for denying religious accommodations for religious minorities in Brazilian republican constitutional history. It then shows how Brazilian elites used a secularized Catholic-positivistic discourse in the first half of the 20th century to suppress minority religious rights presupposing that Brazil was uniquely a Christian (i.e Roman Catholic) nation. The paper will then proceed to show how this Catholic positivistic discourse evolved to a more covert “secular” argument such as those from equality under the laws, “isonomy” and the secular nature of the State, “laicité” following the 1960s and thereafter. The second section attempts to show how this covert anti-liberal tradition of secularized Christianity has still been maintained in Brazil’s 1988 social democratic constitution by the discourse of isonomy and laicité. The article then concludes by attempting to show how religious accommodations do not harm government and suggesting that greater coalition building between minority religions can benefit both historically marginalized communities. This paper concludes by proposing that greater coalition building between African religions and Sabbatarian Christians can benefit both historically marginalized groups to attain their full civil and political liberties.


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