Social conservatives have taken control of Brazil’s Congress and are trying to reverse marriage equality and other progressive victories.
A group of hard-faced young men marched military style through a cheering crowd, giving straight-armed salutes. “Thank the Lord, we are here today ready for battle, and determined to serve you — We are Gladiators of the Altar,” they declared, in a video that went viral in February.
The video wasn’t a clip from an army training exercise or propaganda for some sort of militia. According to the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, which posted the video, the Gladiators of the Altar program essentially amounts to a Bible study class for at-risk young men. The video, posted in February by a Universal Church in the northern coastal city of Fortaleza, got around one million views in the 24 hours before the church took it offline, following widespread uproar.
The video caught fire in part because it embodied the ideological battle now playing out in Brazil’s capital. Backed by the country’s rapidly growing evangelical population, a large number of religious conservatives won election in October as part of a broad conservative coalition that now controls Congress. They have taken office bent on reversing recent gains for LGBT rights, including a 2013 decision by a judicial panel that established marriage equality nationwide. Progressives have struggled to draw public attention to the implications of the vote, in part because even President Dilma Rousseff — who supports LGBT rights — courted evangelical support for her reelection.
By J. Lester Feder
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