Brazil evangelicals protest Covid curbs on church services

Brasília (AFP) –


Several hundred demonstrators marched in Brazil Sunday to protest a ruling by the Supreme Court allowing authorities to bar in-person religious services under Covid-19 restrictions.

The "Christian Family Freedom March" came after the high court ruled Thursday in a 9-2 decision that regional officials have the right to suspend worship services, at a moment when the coronavirus is killing thousands of people a day in Brazil.

Carrying signs and banners with messages such as "Happy is the nation whose God is the Lord" and "Down with the Supreme Court," around 500 evangelical Christian and conservative Catholic protesters marched to the seat of Congress in Brasilia, where they held an outdoor prayer service.

Marches were also held in several other cities, including Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

Marchers demanded "religious freedom," warned against "communist" influence and voiced support for President Jair Bolsonaro, a conservative Catholic who has strongly opposed local bans on religious services.

Brazil's burgeoning conservative Christian movement is a key bloc of support for the far-right leader, who is up for re-election in October next year.

Bolsonaro, who has railed against stay-at-home measures to contain Covid-19, has repeatedly clashed with state and local authorities who impose such restrictions in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Brazil is reeling from a deadly Covid-19 surge that has claimed more than 3,000 lives a day on average over the past week -- currently the highest toll in the world by far.

The pandemic has killed more than 350,000 people in Brazil, second only to the United States.