International Religious Freedom Report
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right in practice.

There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom during the period covered by this report, and government policy continued to contribute to the generally free practice of religion.

The generally amicable relationship among religions in society contributed to the free practice of religion, although a rivalry exists among various religious groups vying for greater numbers of adherents.

The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom issues with the Government in the context of its overall dialog and policy of promoting human rights.

Section I. Religious Demography

The country has total land area of 3,281,865 square miles, and its population is approximately 172.8 million.

Nearly all major religions and religious organizations are present in the country. The Catholic Church's National Council of Brazilian Bishops (CNBB) estimates that roughly 75 percent of the population identify themselves as Roman Catholic, although only a small percentage of that number regularly attend Mass. Roughly 20 percent of the population identify themselves as Protestants, the majority of which are Pentecostal/evangelical. Evangelical churches have grown rapidly and have challenged the religious predominance of the Catholic Church. An estimated 85 percent of the country's Protestants are affiliated with Pentecostal/evangelical minority religious groups. Minor denominations include the Assembly of God and the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God. Lutherans and Baptists make up the bulk of the remaining Protestants and are centered in the southern part of the country, where the majority of German and northern European immigrants concentrated during the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Followers of African and syncretistic religions such Candomble, Xango, Macumba, and Umbanda constitute roughly 4 percent of the population. Candomble is the predominant traditional African religion practiced among Afro-Brazilians. It centers on the worship of African deities brought to the country as a result of the slave trade. Syncretistic forms of African religions that developed in the country include Xango and Macumba, which to varying degrees combine and identify indigenous animist beliefs and Catholic saints with African deities. The capital of Bahia State, Salvador, where most African slaves arrived in the country, is considered the center of Candomble and other traditional African religions. As a result of internal migration during the 20th century, Afro-Brazilian and syncretistic religions have spread throughout the country. Followers of spiritism, mainly Kardecists--followers of the doctrine transcribed by Frenchman Allan Kardec in the 19th century--constitute roughly 1 percent of the population. Many citizens worship in more than one church or participate in the rituals of more than one religion.

Sunni and Shi'a Islam are practiced predominantly by immigrants from Arab countries who have arrived in the country during the past 25 years. Shintoism is maintained to a limited degree among the Japanese-Brazilian community.

Foreign missionary groups, including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) and several evangelical organizations, operate freely throughout the country.

Section II. Status of Religious Freedom

Legal/Policy Framework

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right in practice. The Government at all levels generally protects this right in full, and does not tolerate its abuse, either by governmental or private actors.

There are no registration requirements for religions or religious groups. There is no favored or state religion. All faiths are free to establish places of worship, train clergy, and proselytize, although the Government controls entry into Indian lands. There is a general provision for access to religious services and counsel in all civil and military establishments.

The Government restricts the access of missionary groups to indigenous peoples and requires groups to seek permission from the National Indian Foundation to enter official indigenous areas.

Restrictions on Religious Freedom

Government policy and practice contributed to the generally unrestricted practice of religion.

There were no reports of religious prisoners or detainees.

Forced Religious Conversion

There were no reports of forced religious conversion, including of minor U.S. citizens who had been abducted or illegally removed from the United States, or of the Government's refusal to allow such citizens to be returned to the United States.

Section III. Societal Attitudes

There are amicable relations among the various religious communities in the country, although a natural rivalry exists among various religious groups vying for greater numbers of adherents. The influence of evangelical churches in the country is growing. There is no national ecumenical movement.

In 1999 leaders in the Jewish community expressed concern about the appearance of anti-Semitic propaganda on neo-Nazi Internet sites in Brazil during the previous 3 years, and newspaper reports indicated that Rio de Janeiro prosecutors were beginning an investigation into anti-Semitic Internet sites in May 2001. Jewish community activists report that although neo-Nazi groups have issued threats against at least one prominent leader, there have been no reports of any violent incidents directed at Jews.

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy

The U.S. Embassy discusses religious freedom issues with the Government in the context of its overall dialog and policy of promoting human rights.

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