Evangelicals and the Secular State in Brazilian Politics: Current Controversies in Perspective

  • Paul Freston
Part of the Christianity and Renewal - Interdisciplinary Studies book series (CHARIS)


The chapter places in historical and comparative context the current controversies surrounding the evangelical presence in Brazilian politics, often treated as “threat to the secular state (estado laico)”. It discusses the historical relationship between evangelical Protestantism and the secular state, stressing that very different views of the state have always been present within it but that the most frequent “temptation” has been apoliticism and not theocracy. Comparative perspectives on concepts of secularism are given, exemplifying the slippery nature of the phrase “the state is secular”. The growing religious diversity within Brazil is outlined; and the global uniqueness of the current Brazilian situation is located, not in a strong religious presence in politics, nor in evangelical involvement, but in its successful evangelical electoral corporatism. The factors that make this possible are described. The reach and limitations of this corporatism are discussed, including the degree to which it represents a danger to the secular state, and its probable future development is predicted.


  1. Davis, James Calvin, ed. On Religious Liberty: Selections from the Works of Roger Williams. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2008.Google Scholar
  2. Helwys, Thomas. A Short Declaration of the Mystery of Iniquity 1611/1612. Edited and introduced by Richard Groves. Classics in Religious Liberty Series. Macon: Mercer University Press, 1998.Google Scholar
  3. Kuru, Ahmet T. Secularism and State Policies Toward Religion: The United States, France, and Turkey. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Pew Research Center. “Spirit and Power: A 10-Country Survey of Pentecostals.” Religion & Public Life. October 5, 2006,
  5. Siedentop, Larry. Tocqueville. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul Freston
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Wilfrid Laurier UniversityWaterlooCanada
  2. 2.Universidade Federal de São CarlosSão CarlosBrazil

Personalised recommendations