Watch Your Tongue: Prejudiced Comments Illegal in Brazil

Taylor Barnes, Christian Science Monitor, December 4, 2012

In an amateur online video, Afonso Henrique Alves Lobato describes how he and fellow members of his Evangelical church snuck into a spiritual center of Umbanda, an Afro-Brazilian faith that venerates deities originating from Africa in services led by a religious figure called a pai de santo.

“I saw a pai de santo, gay, of course, because every pai de santo is homosexual,” the young Mr. Lobato said. “As everyone knows, a [Umbanda] spiritual center is a place where the devil is called upon.”

Brazilian authorities had no tolerance for his remarks. Lobato and his pastor, Tupirani da Hora Lores, who reportedly posted disparaging remarks about other religions online, were swiftly jailed and charged with a crime: religious intolerance.

These men were the first to be jailed for such a crime in Brazil when authorities detained them pre-trial. In July the pair was found guilty and given a sentence of community service and a fine.

“No one should imagine that these religious men are being unfairly punished,” Rio’s prominent crime columnist, Jorge Antonio Barros, wrote in the national O Globo newspaper. “Nobody has the right to disrespect someone else’s religious practices, all the less so in the name of God.”


Brazil’s diverse ethnic and religious makeup is often compared with that of the United States, and tensions run high. It has a legacy of slavery, a marginalized indigenous population, large immigrant clusters, and a majority Christian population that clashes with Afro-Brazilian religions. But Brazil’s approach to “hate speech” is starkly different than that of the US. From arresting an Argentine soccer player for racist shouts during a game, prosecuting a columnist in the Amazon for writing that government officials “could not stand the odor exhaled by Indians,” and ordering YouTube to remove the infamous “Innocence of Muslims“ video due to its potential to incite intolerance—prejudiced comments are simply illegal in Brazil.

Despite a constitutional principle of freedom of expression, Brazilian lawmakers and law enforcement have drawn the line when it comes to agitating racial, religious, or ethnic tensions. {snip}


There are two types of offenses in Brazil when it comes to hate speech. Both are punishable by prison time under the 1990 law, which was passed after two decades of military dictatorship but is increasingly visible today. One has to do with insults directed at a specific person based on their race, ethnicity, religion, or nationality. The second is the expression and encouragement of prejudice toward the same groups in general, as was the case of the Evangelicals.

Supporters say that violent hate crimes are a reality in Brazil and that human dignity is as important a principle as freedom of speech. There’s currently a push to include the protection of sexual orientation under the law as well. {snip}


In 2010 the Pernambuco Bar Association sued law student Mayara Petruso in São Paulo for racist comments on Twitter. She was the first Brazilian to be found guilty of racism expressed over social media when convicted this May. After the election of President Dilma Rousseff in 2010, a wave of anti-northeastern comments struck social networks from opponents who accused the candidate of winning by giving handouts to the poor, especially in Brazil’s economically depressed northeast.

“Give the right to vote to northeasterners and you drown the country of those who worked to support the bums who have a kid so they can get a check,” Ms. Petruso tweeted, in addition to sending messages saying residents of the wealthy state of São Paulo should “drown” a northeasterner.


Daniel Silva, a linguistics professor at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, says that Brazilians largely do not protest or question the laws against prejudice and that, rather than claiming free speech, defendants typically try to reconstruct their comments as a joke or say they were misunderstood.

But Ricardo Noblat, a popular political columnist who describes himself as a member of the left, warns about the zeal to apply a law that restricts free speech in the name of human dignity but in practice is used to target so-called conservative standpoints.

In a column headlined “The fascism of the well intentioned,” Mr. Noblat defended ultra-conservative Congressman Jair Bolsonaro, who routinely speaks out on culture war issues such as abortion rights and a proposed “gay kit” that would be distributed in public schools to counter homophobic attitudes. Noblat noted that former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva famously said that the global financial crisis had been caused by “blonde people with blue eyes” without an outcry of racism over his comments.

“I think this [curbing of free speech] disqualifies the Brazilian democracy,” Noblat says. He adds that after a two-decade military dictatorship, which ended in 1985, Brazil does not have a deeply rooted culture of Democracy. Freedom of speech, Noblat says, “only worries a small part of society.”


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  • ed91

    are postjudiced comments ok? common sense comments? comments about reality? comments about things that are likely to happen?

    • AngryWhiteMan

      Postjudiced… haha that’s brilliant… I’m gonna start using that one

  • A reason not to immigrate or even visit Brazil.

    • AngryWhiteMan

      Every country has its problems and its taboos. But Brasil is still a very interesting place to visit. A little dangerous but variety is the spice of life

      • adplatt126

        Yeah but with too much variety, you’ll soon discover that safety, food, a non-totalitarian government, freedom of speech, freedom of expression, some degree of trust, openness, honesty, comfort, are all significantly more valuable than “spice”.

    • Liberalsuck

      Unfortunately, all these problems and the people who create them are coming to a town near you soon.

  • Tim

    They could have done a Soviet style roundup of Sister Mary O`Neill`s entire fourth grade class…..And to add insult to injury they were all wearing Red and Gray sweaters!!.. Rebels indeed.

  • nobody

    How long until this is law in America?

    • So CAL Snowman

      It pretty much already is.

      • lupin

        That is correct. A few months ago, Paul Craig Roberts pointed out that the Russian prosecution of the “Pussy Riot” trio was no different than the persecution of Americans who engage in “hate speech”.

    • Epiminondas

      The real question is how much longer before the current hate speech laws already in place are used to frame certain people, groups and politicians? When David Dukes goes to prison for his beliefs, that is the day you will know that freedom of speech is truly dead in America.

  • David Ashton

    Some time ago there was a foolish attempt in Britain to introduce “religious hatred” laws like “racial hatred” laws. The chief absurdity of this was the fact that the Koran is explicitly hostile to pagans, Jews and Christians, the New Testament to Jews, and the Talmud to “star worshipers” &c. The sacred texts are hostile to the other sacred texts – a paradox that did not cross the mind of the secularists largely responsible for this restrictive legislation who are largely ignorant of the faiths they seek ostensibly to protect. I submitted a documented critical memorandum to the House of Lords committee, but this was excluded when they published a collection of critiques although they found room for repetitive letters from Baptists who simply reaffirmed their own true faith, making objectors seem bigoted fundamentalists.
    This nonsense was aborted, since the ultimate result would be to make religion an activity confined to consenting adults in private, and crosses, for example, eventually removed from the public space if non-Christians found them “offensive”.
    However, a “milder” version appears in Section 5 of the Public Order Act which prohibits “insults”. For instance: (1) hoteliers prosecuted for debating religion with a Muslim guest, (2) campaigners arrested for protesting against a rally calling for Muslim apostates, homosexuals, Jews and unchaste women to be killed, (3) an atheist told by police that an anti-religious placard in his window could lead to arrest if not removed, (4) a Christian street preacher convicted for displaying a sign saying homosexual acts were immoral, after being showered with filth by passers-by who were not arrested.

    “Multiculturalism” is used not only to destroy the Christian character of British society in general but to neutralize previously Christian organizations like the Boy Scouts. There is a Marxist method in this cultural madness.

    • Stole the words out of my mouth. The ideologies most hostile to religion is other religions.

      • David Ashton

        And “liberalism” and “cultural Marxism” are like religions in their obsessive totalitarianism.

  • Eddie Willers

    LOL! People will always find a coded way to express themselves without falling foul of the law!

    It reminds me of the story doing the rounds back in 1982 during the Falklands War. The British squaddies took to calling the agrarian Falkland islanders ‘Bennys’ – after a simple-minded soap opera character on a popular British TV show of the time. The officers thought this was cruel and discriminatory and issued orders – presumably back by threat of courts martial and the glasshouse – that it was to be stopped immediately. Result? The squaddies re-christened the islanders ‘Stills’. Why? Because they were ‘Still Bennys’.

  • generalquagmyer

    I guess there isn’t enough real crime being committed in Brazil to keep the cops busy. Robberies and kidnappings and such are probably unheard of…

  • dhs

    It’s somewhat off topic, but this article shows the importance of the Amren website in providing information about liberalism around the world. I speak to many men who are aware of conditions in the US, but are ignorant of liberalism’s penetration in other countries. They are amazed when I tell them that Canada is more infested with immigrants than the U.S., and that free speech (other than porn) is a dead issue in the UK. It’s ditto with Germany’s huge Islamic population and African penetration into Israel. These guys think that there is a normal country into which they can escape if America prolapses. Sadly, I can inform that it’s highly unlikely.

    • Eddie Willers

      Except, coming to Canada’s defense somewhat, the immigration to Canuckistan is controlled with a reasonable amount of care – at least if the migrant wishes to become a Permanent Resident.

      • lupin

        Yes, Canada tries to bring in the entrepreneurial and the well-educated. They might be ethnically different (huge numbers of Chinese), but they are not the 8th grade dropouts ready to vote for socialism that we are letting in from Mexico.

        • Liberalsuck

          Why doesn’t Canada instead bring in the millions of displaced white south africans?

  • Delarge

    This is the direction in which most Western countries are moving, or in some cases, have already moved. The more racially and culturally divided a country is, the easier it is to implement restrictions on speech, association and assembly under the guise of “preserving social harmony”. Diversity is valued above all apparently and all forms of tolerance except tolerance of ideas and traditions is to be enforced through imprisonment and fines. Jewish interest groups are almost always pushing for “hate speech” legislation, for the good of everyone of course — that or group libel laws.

    Given the rising intolerance and indifference to freedom of speech in the US, as evidenced by insane claims along the lines of “hate speech” being separate from free speech, the integrity of freedom of expression in the US seems to hinge on the composition of SCOTUS. Scary.


    I thought Brasil was supposed to be racist, according to the people who criticise Brasils “colorism”.

    • AngryWhiteMan

      Brasil is less racist because there’s not the obsession with ancestry or phenotype. I mean those things are still there but they never had the One Drop Rule and miscegenation has never been particularly controversial. Perhaps its because the country has never been overwhelmingly populated by one ethnicity. There’s certainly never been “racial solidarity” among “whites”. Down there if your hair is light they call you Alemão [German] as a nickname. It’s lighthearted but still very strange to an American.

      • seedofjapheth

        I have heard
        though the elite in Brasil is lighter skinned

        • David Ashton

          There is an informal pigment hierarchy which once had precise labels for each and every mixture.

        • AngryWhiteMan

          Yes. There is a high correlation between whiteness and wealth there, just like every other country in the hemisphere

  • Anon

    Although a country where racial tolerance was overwhelming in the past Brazil is slowly being drifted into a sort of racial discomfort to say the least. Quotas for Blacks in universities and in government offices, holidays celebrating “Black conscience”, stricter enforcment of almost forgotten antiracism laws etc. Everything fostered by our leftist elites, beginning with the social democrats during the nineties and extended since 2002 by our laborites and corrupt rulers. They aim to to divide us in order to rule forever. So it is not only the race question that has been stressed, but class and sex struggle and even regional disputes. And they found the appropriate tactics by importing the ideology of the politically correct discourse. This is not to blame others for our troubles because in fact we have “perfected” their madness. But in no doubt Brazil being a peripheral country its culture is a peripheral one, hence, an easily prey to absurd fallacies from abroad.

  • T_Losan

    “No one should imagine that these religious men are being unfairly punished,” Rio’s prominent crime columnist, Jorge Antonio Barros, wrote in the national O Globo newspaper.

    Why take chances? While you’re at it, outlaw any criticism of this kind of ruling…you can’t be too careful.

  • 5Sardonicus

    “One has to do with insults directed at a specific person
    based on their race, ethnicity, religion, or nationality. The second is the
    expression and encouragement of prejudice toward the same groups in general, as
    was the case of the Evangelicals.”

    No doubt most American Renaissance contributors would be prosecuted
    and imprisoned under those expansive guidelines. Make no mistake about it; this
    is the desired outcome for the leftist promoters of “hate speech”. Maybe as the
    demographic profile of the United States increasingly resembles Brazil, we will
    see similar laws legislated or adjudicated here in America.

  • ageofknowledge

    Locking up people who speak the truth will not solve ANY of Brazil’s MANY self-made problems.

  • Another Brazilian Coward

    What the article does not capture is the atmosphere of fear that is now prevalent in Brazil: fear of speaking your mind to anyone, anywhere, even in private. I was citing some statistics to a friend while driving, about the median IQ of black Brazilians (70, according to Rushton) and he told me to roll up the windows. It gets that bad. It is not a question of “free speech” any more, but of self-censorship: people avoid even thinking about certain taboo topics, lest these thoughts betray them when they speak. And when someone does talk to them about politically incorrect issues, the discomfort is palpable: they look around to see if it’s safe; they suspect that contact with you will somehow contaminate them; they immediately distance themselves from you, physically and emotionally. I have talked to many fellow Brazilians and not one acted differently.

    The only comparable atmosphere I’ve encountered was in Cuba, where I spent a few months. Talking to a couple of Cubans inside their house, during dinner, I made comments about Castro’s regime and they asked me to please not speak about politics in their home because the neighbors might turn them in.

    We, in Brazil, live in a similar totalitarian state — but it is self-imposed, out of fear, out of stupidity, out of sheer cowardice.