BRASILIA (Reuters) – Leftist presidential candidate Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has assured Brazil’s evangelical Christians that he will not restrict religious freedoms if elected on October 2, praising dedication to his beliefs.
In a public letter to Brazilian evangelicals, Lula said that he personally opposed the legalization of abortion and that his government would let Congress decide on the issue.
Lula said his message, which came less than two weeks before a second round against far-right incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro, was motivated by campaign lies spread by his rival warning voters that a Lula government would close churches. and restrict religious freedoms.
“My government will not adopt any policy that harms religious freedom or creates obstacles for churches to function freely,” he said.
Brazil’s presidential race has narrowed to a 4 percentage point gap between leftist leader Lula and incumbent Bolsonaro, and they are now tied statistically, according to a poll released on Wednesday.
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Lula called the use of religious beliefs for political gain in the election campaign a “sad scandal” and vowed never to use religion politically or violate the separation of church from state.
His adversary, Bolsonaro, has strong backing from Brazil’s fast-growing evangelical churches because of his conservative agenda based on family values and pro-life, and rejection of gay marriage and drug legalization.
With one in four Brazilians believed to be evangelical today in this predominantly Catholic country, a recent poll by PoderData said that 62% of evangelical voters favor Bolsonaro, and only 38% back Lula, who has with the support of 51% of Catholics.
Lula, who ruled Brazil from 2003 to 2010, said he always maintained absolute respect for religious freedom during his eight years as president, passing laws and decrees that protect religious diversity.
“The Brazilian people know that I cared for the poorest with special affection and, with God’s blessing, my government contributed to improving the lives of millions of families,” said the former president.
(Reporting by Anthony Boadle; editing by Richard Pullin)
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