II n June, Adventist state deputy Damaris Moura passed an amendment that guarantees religious conscientious objection to students and civil servants in the Brazilian state of São Paulo.
The text is part of Bill 350/2020, which establishes emergency measures for the period of public calamity caused by the new coronavirus, voted in an extraordinary virtual session by members of the São Paulo Legislative Assembly (Alesp). The amendment helps Seventh-day Adventists in the state of São Paulo.
From now on, students from public and private institutions of the State, at all levels, are guaranteed the right to fulfill, in an alternative way, without any prejudice, classes and academic requirements scheduled for the days of religious guard (Article 34).
Seventh-day Adventist pastor Odailson Fonseca, who leads the church’s religious liberty department in the region, celebrated the passage: “Religious freedom is not a matter of choice, it is a matter of law and law. Therefore, yet another achievement such as this leads to respecting [religious liberty] as a non-negotiable value,” he said.
Achievement for religious freedom
The determination strengthens the right to religious freedom, the main banner of Damaris Moura, especially after the opinion number 5/2020 of the National Education Council, approved by the Ministry of Education (MEC), which guides and authorizes schools to replace classes lost during Covid-19 on Saturdays, during the state of public calamity. Such a requirement would harm thousands of young Adventists in secular institutions as well as members of the Jewish community in São Paulo state.
The guarantee of religious exemption also extends to all public service employees, both direct and indirect (Article 35).
Damaris explained how the amendment came about: "I inserted this chapter into the Bill 350/2020 based on article 5 of the Federal Constitution, which ensures that 'no one will be deprived of rights due to religious belief,'" she explained.
“It is also based on Article 7, the Law of Guidelines and Bases of Education (LDB), which ensures the absence motivated by freedom of belief, upon prior notice, and the replacement of the requirement in an alternative date by means of class, exam, or work duties,” she added
Rogério Galvão, a student of Economic Sciences at the Federal University of São Carlos, Sorocaba campus, celebrates the approval of the Law. “I am a student who fits perfectly in the application of this Law. Therefore, I am very relieved to know that I will now have this support to be able to continue studying and following my religious principles,” he said.
Damaris is the founder and coordinator of the Parliamentary Front in Defense of Religious Freedom in the State of São Paulo and founder of the First Religious Law and Freedom Commission of the Brazilian Bar Association (OAB), of which she was president for ten years. Therefore, the conquest is a reason for celebration for all religious.
The parliamentarian reinforces that the right to the free exercise of religion is a pillar of the rule of law. “This guarantee [affirms the dignity] of each human being and, consequently, our democracy. As a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, I know the struggle and daily pressure that many of our brethren face to keep the Sabbath in universities and in the job market,” she said.
In addition, PL 350/2020 establishes measures related to the prevention and contingency actions of COVID-19, reductions in public agency expenses, tax incentives, combating fake news and interventions for people in social vulnerability and victims of domestic violence. The text now goes to the desk of João Doria, the governor of São Paulo, to be signed into law.