Tuesday, February 26, 2013

ACLJ Establishes Affiliate Office in Brazil

The American Religious Right is a sophisticated movement, networking and outreaching with like-minded people across the globe. Outreach can take the form of affiliate offices overseas, giving such groups international influence. One example of a globally connected right-wing organization is the American Center for Law and Justice.

The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) is a legal advocacy and litigation organization with a decidedly anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQ equality stance. Since its creation in 1990 by Pat Robertson, it has advocated for crisis pregnancy centers, the Defense of Marriage Act, public Ten Commandments displays, and a host of other Religious Right issues. The ACLJ is headed by chief counsel Jay Sekulow and executive director Jordan Sekulow, who have a history of right-wing activism and comments.

Political Research Associates reports that the ACLJ is branching out to South America. In a January 26th report, Jandira Queiroz reported that Filipe Coelho was launching a Brazilian branch of the ACLJ in Goiânia, Brazil. Coelho heralds from a devoted evangelical family with close ties to the Sekulows. According to the report, Coelho opposes an anti-homophobia bill currently under consideration in Brazil, arguing that “homosexuals are trying to treat homosexuality as if it were a race, while it is really an attitude, a behavior.”

The Brazilian Center for Law and Justice (BCLJ) is only the most recent ACLJ overseas affiliate to arise. According to its website, the ACLJ has affiliate offices around the globe in Russia, France, Israel, Pakistan, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and South Korea. For example, Political Research Associates' 2012 report Colonizing African Values: How the U.S. Christian Right Is Transforming Sexual Politics in Africa, describes the efforts of ACLJ's African affiliates in drafting policy and resisting LGBTQ rights in Kenya and Zimbabwe.

Queiroz speculated that branching out into Brazil was a strategic move for the ACLJ, as Brazil is a large Christian country with a rapidly growing Protestant population. As a result, evangelical representation in politics is expanding, and the ACLJ/BCLJ may be seeking a niche in this growing political scene. To boot, Brazil also "exports" religious ideas to its South American neighbors, Queiroz observes, making it a powerful cultural as well as economic force in the region. Brazil also has a politically active LGBTQ movement, as well as its own Religious Right voices that oppose LGBTQ rights legislation.

However, Queiroz reminds readers that the BCLJ/ACLJ's influence over the Brazilian political scene is far from solid yet. The presence of other evangelical groups means that the BCLJ/ACLJ will encounter competition.
"Brazil is a country of contradictions. It can produce the Brazilian Carnival and lay the intellectual foundation for the Christian conservative group American Society for Tradition, Family and Property. It has a president who worked on the shop floor and was educated by the Roman Catholic Left, and it is home to right-wing Christian empires such as the Universal Church and the Assembly of God Victory in Christ. This country, just as the poets have said, isn’t for beginners. Whoever wants to navigate its wonderful byways must tread carefully. If BCLJ pursues a legal and diplomatic focus through one-on-one networking, it may someday find a niche for itself among the powerbrokers. But it is organizing in a very competitive environment, one in which evangelicals have already made a vigorous bid for political power and have found ways to generate huge cash resources. So BCLJ’s path to power is far from clear."
As I've emphasized before, Religious Right activism is a global issue. The ACLJ's expansion into Brazil and other countries is indicative of an organization that is thinking globally as well as nationally. No doubt the ACLJ's international affiliates will defend right-wing causes, now that worldwide progressive causes and cultural fault lines are more prominent than ever. while the result of the ACLJ's expansion overseas remains to be seen, international advocates for LGBTQ equality, reproductive rights, church-state separation should be aware of its presence.

For additional commentary, visit the following links.

Buzzfeed: American Christian Legal Group Exports Anti-LGBT Agenda To Brazil


  1. I wonder if the recent push by extremist organizations to branch out into third world countries is because they are starting to realize that the days of their ideas being the norm are numbered here in the US.

    1. Sheldon -- It's a plausible possibility, and a chilling one to boot. Let's hope sane minds overseas can thwart them.

  2. Why do these backward organizations always have forward sounding names. By the name alone, I would guess that "American Center for Law and Justice" would be helping underprivileged groups, not attacking them. I guess they can't call their organization "we hate gays", but it would be nice if their branding wasn't so deceptive.

    1. Hausdorff -- Branding is everything. Groups like the Family Research Council and the American Family Association aren't doing much to help families, but their names sound more pleasant than "National Organization Against Gays, Muslims, Feminists, and Other People We Don't Like".


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