In 2004, ASSINAP (Association of Active Employees, Retirees and Pensioners of the Military Police, Military Brigades and Military Firefighters of Brazil) filed a lawsuit with the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of article 91, paragraph 12, of the Constitution of the State of Rio de Janeiro. The paragraph states: 

“Paragraph 12 – An evangelical pastor shall be assigned to the Military Police and Military Fire Brigades, who shall provide religious guidance in barracks, hospitals and prisons with the right to become a chaplain.”

According to ASSINAP, the assignment of an evangelical pastor to provide religious guidance in the barracks, hospitals and prisons of the Military Police and the Fire Brigade violates the constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion and belief. 

Conectas and the CDH (Center for Human Rights) were admitted to the ADI-3478 case as amicus curiae and defended, in their brief, that the Federal Constitution recognizes the Brazilian State as secular, prohibiting the promotion of religious worship and placing the State in a position of impartiality and also of pluralism with regard to religions.

According to the organizations, the text challenged by ASSINAP violates these principles by transforming the barracks, hospitals and prisons of the Military Police and Fire Brigade into a place for preaching a single religion.

“This is unconstitutional because it infringes on the right to freedom and inviolability of belief of non-evangelical military personnel, it violates the principle of equality among other religions, as it benefits believers of a single faith, as well as benefiting pastors for public office and, finally, it violates the principle of the Secular Republic, by making the State an instrument of evangelical preaching,” reads an excerpt from the amicus curiae. 

The organizations also made a historical review of the struggle for the separation of Church and State in Brazil and stressed that the separation between Political Power and Divine Power is the basis of modern States and a fundamental step towards the configuration and protection of fundamental individual rights.

In 2019, in a unanimous ruling, the Supreme Court upheld the request made in the case and declared article 91, paragraph 12 of the Constitution of the State of Rio de Janeiro unconstitutional, in line with the vote of the rapporteur, Justice Edson Fachin.

“The right of the military to religious assistance requires the State to refrain from any preference, under penalty of violating article 19, paragraph I of the Brazilian Constitution. Any state law that gives preference to a specific religious orientation to the detriment of those of other groups is incompatible with the constitutional rule of neutrality and with the right to freedom of religion,” reads an excerpt of the ruling. According to the 2000 Census conducted by the IBGE statistics institute, there are at least 43 different types of religions being practiced in Brazil.

Technical information: 

Case: ADI-3478
Court: Supreme Court 
Status: Supreme Court declared passage of the Constitution of the State of Rio de Janeiro unconstitutional. 
Procedure: Supreme Court denies any appeal of the case.

  • 04/28/2005 – Initial petition
  • 10/04/2005 – Request for admission as amicus curiae
  • 11/27/2012 – Organizations admitted as amicus curiae
  • 12/19/2019 – Completion of the judgment