Racial Equality

Religious Extremism Threatens Democracy Worldwide

  Rob Boston

Imagine a crowd of thousands, whipped into a frenzy by a political leader who fed them lies, assailing a federal government building, waving flags and chanting, “God, fatherland, family and liberty.”

Is this a description of what happened in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, 2021? Nope. It took place in Brasilia, the capital of Brazil, two days ago.

In scenes that, as The Washington Post, put it, “hauntingly evoked the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump,” a violent mob overran Brazil’s presidential office building, Congress and Supreme Court.

A Leader’s Lies Spark Violence

Like Trump’s legions, this mob had been lied to by its leader. Jair Bolsonaro, the country’s former president, lost a close election to Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in October. Like Trump, Bolsonaro never conceded. Like Trump, he insisted that the election was a fraud. Like Trump, he spewed incendiary rhetoric – and eventually, his followers lashed out in a spasm of violence.

The violence in Brazil, the spawn of an incendiary cocktail of political and religious extremism, is a reminder that what we face isn’t just people with a different view of life. Too many of them represent regressive forces that don’t like democracy. They’re angry that women have rights. They’re angry that members of the LGBTQ community are more visible than ever. They’re angry that nonbelievers are emerging from the shadows. They’re angry that people are reading books they don’t like. They’re angry that growing numbers of people reject the toxicity of political fundamentalism. They’re angry that you don’t believe what they believe.

They are at war with modern life. And as anyone who has followed recent events in Iran and Afghanistan can see, these views aren’t limited to any one faith.

Separation: The Linchpin Of Our Freedoms

When we work to uphold the separation of church and state, we don’t do it simply to secure our own rights; we contend for the very survival of democracy and all that flows from it, including our right to be religious, or not, as guided by conscience.

If you doubt that, review the footage from Jan. 6, 2021, in our nation’s capital and then take a look at what happened in Brazil on Sunday.

Photo: Officials inspect the damage at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia. By Andressa Anholete/Getty Images.


Congress needs to hear from you!

Urge your legislators to co-sponsor the Do No Harm Act today.

The Do No Harm Act will help ensure that our laws are a shield to protect religious freedom and not used as a sword to harm others by undermining civil rights laws and denying access to health care.

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