A few weeks ago in Brazil, two young women, aged 18 and 20, were ejected from a public evangelical event, manhandled, publicly insulted, handcuffed and arrested for having engaged in a kiss while pastor Marco Feliciano, who is also a congressman and the president of Brazil's Human Rights and Minorities Commission, was speaking. "Those two girls have to leave here handcuffed," he proclaimed upon spotting them. "No use trying to run. Guards are headed there now. This isn't a place where anything goes. This is a house of God."
It was a kiss. A kiss enacted in a public space at a public event. Yet it outraged a pastor-politician who heads his country's Human Rights and Minorities Commission. The reason for his fury was that it was a same-sex kiss.
Feliciano mischaracterized the venue as a "house of God' when in fact the rally was taking place in an open public space on Beach Street. What legal right did Feliciano believe he possessed to demand that these young women refrain from their embrace, suffer the indignity of a public shaming and arrest and be immediately thrown into a jail cell?
Feliciano's responsibility as president of the Human Rights and Minorities Commission is to fight prejudice and protect the rights of all Brazilians. Amidst countrywide protests and anger regarding his rabid homophobia and racism, Feliciano was "elected" president of the commission in March. Since he assumed control of the commission, it has approved a bill approving the "treatment" of gays and lesbians by psychologists seeking to "cure" them of their homosexuality, thus implying that it is a disorder. Brazil's Federal Psychology Council (and many Brazilian leaders) have vociferously objected to the bill, and it is said that this attempt by Feliciano will fail and the bill will be thrown out.
Astoundingly, according to Feliciano, John Lennon deserved to be murdered in 1980 because he supposedly offended God by suggesting in 1966 that the Beatles were "more popular than Jesus." In a 2005 sermon at his church, Feliciano said:
The Bible says God does not let this type of offense go unpunished. ... I would have liked to be there the day they discovered his body. I would have lifted the cloth that covered him, and I would have told him, "Excuse me, John, but this first shot is in the name of the Father, this one is in the name of the Son, and that one in the name of the Holy Spirit. Nobody confronts God and survives for debauchery."
Apparently Feliciano's version of God is a being who would put three bullets into a man for daring to suggest that a pop group has more popularity than His son Jesus. Basically Feliciano's definition of his God is that of a murderous tyrant. Given that Feliciano describes how he would kneel over John Lennon's body and explain to the corpse with a certain amount of obvious glee that God organized his murder, it isn't a stretch to imagine that Feliciano himself supports assassinations for making lighthearted quips about Jesus.
Karen Armstrong, a former nun, esteemed historian and writer of 20 books on religion, succinctly describes what it is to presume intimate knowledge of God's wishes:
[P]eople very often talk about him as a kind of acquaintance, whom they can second-guess. People will say God loves that, God wills that, and God despises the other. And very often, the opinions of the deity are made to coincide exactly with those of the speaker.
Feliciano's astonishing comments regarding the murder of John Lennon are indicative of a dangerous religious fervor that tumbles fairly and squarely into the realm of delusion.
Does a human being have any real knowledge of whether a deity, assuming for a second that such a deity actually exists, disapproves of a same-sex kiss? When Feliciano caught sight of the kiss between the two young women, he wouldn't let them leave. He had them cornered. He ordered the police into action as he issued a fire-and-brimstone war cry from the stage. He clearly wanted the two girls severely punished for engaging in a kiss. He wanted them hunted down, shamed and thrown in a cell.
Chilling. What makes this so bizarre is that the man ordering the arrest of two people for engaging in a gay kiss is the president of Brazil's Human Rights and Minorities Commission! Is this not the definition of hypocrisy? Offending a self-righteous and dangerously fanatical pastor is not a crime, and the police should not have taken orders from him. Marco Feliciano has an opinion -- an irrational dislike of all gay people -- but this is not translatable into law at his whim.
Pastor-politician Feliciano abused his position at a public event by whipping up prejudice and inciting hatred and violence, characterizing the kiss as illegal, crashing down on the young women, publicly berating and ridiculing them, the force of the arrest allegedly physically harming the women as they were shackled and thrown in a cell pending charges. How can Feliciano stand in a public park during a public rally and audaciously declare that the park has suddenly, magically transformed into a "house of God" where same-sex kissing is illegal?
Feliciano demonstrated astounding police-state arrogance by orchestrating the arrest while publicly haranguing the two young females in front of a 70,000-strong crowd as they were forcibly ejected from the public arena and shackled by police. This is not the behavior expected of an elected human rights official, nor is it the behavior expected of a real man of God. Perhaps Feliciano is simply a man of a god of his own interpretation? The accuracy of that interpretation -- and its implications for minorities -- should be scrutinized.
Feliciano does not have the authority to decide for others what is considered love in all its modes of expression. As a Christian who believes in Jesus, he is undoubtedly familiar with the term "persecution," and he is guilty of it. Feliciano continues to persecute LGBT persons in his position in government, and he was wrong to strip two young women of their dignity and their right to freedom of expression.
Feliciano's position as president of Brazil's Human Rights and Minorities Commission should be placed under review immediately in order to ascertain whether he is truly suitable for such a position.
Feliciano was clearly enraged by two young people kissing in a crowd of 70,000, and he chose to orchestrate an attack on the young women because of his widely publicized anti-gay beliefs. This behavior is the antithesis of what is expected from an advocate for human rights and minorities.
There were other, heterosexual couples embracing and kissing at the rally, but he singled out the women engaging in a same-sex kiss. In his position as head of the Human Rights and Minorities Commission, Feliciano must protect all individuals' right to freedom of speech and expression; it is not his job to single out certain people for persecution because of his questionable personal stance on homosexuality.
Feliciano's behavior is the perfect example of the difficulties and dangers that arise when religious zealotry is not kept fairly and squarely out of government. Feliciano should be charged with inciting hatred and violence in a public setting.
The two young women who kissed at the venue should be exonerated immediately, their bogus charges dropped, and they should be compensated monetarily for the emotional and physical damages that they suffered at the hands of a pastor-politician who clearly has a taste for violence and a dangerous anti-gay agenda.