Brazilian State Confiscates Anti-Candomble Book

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The state of Bahia in Brazil has confiscated all copies of the book “Yes, Yes! No, No! Reflections on Healing and Liberation” on the grounds that it makes false and prejudicial statements about the Afro-Brazilian religions of Candomble and Umbanda, and incites readers to destroy their objects of worship.

“A judge in the state of Bahia, Brazil, has ordered the confiscation of a book written by Catholic priest Jonas Abib, in which he condemns witchcraft as immoral. The book, “Yes, Yes! No, No! Reflections on Healing and Liberation,” warns readers against the dangers of the occult, which includes the “Afro-Brazilian” religions known as “spiritualism.” According to Fr. Abib’s website, the book has gone through 81 printings and has sold over 400,000 copies. “Father Jonas, like Paul, dares to denounce works of darkness, making the reader aware of mind control, yoga, astrology, magic, and the invocation of the dead, revealing the truth about works of darkness, with which it is urgently necessary to separate,” says a summary of the book posted on the same site.

The confiscation of a work is a pretty serious action, but it seems that the book by Jonas Abib, a Charismatic Catholic priest, went head-to-head with the state of Bahia’s constitution. Bahia is the birthplace of Condomble, and the faith is explicitly protected.

“Public prosecutor Almiro Sena, however, has accused Abib of “making false and prejudiced statements about the spiritualist religion as well as religions from Africa, like Umbanda and Candomble, as well as a flagrant incitement to destruction and disrespect for their objects of worship.” He added that the violation was more serious because “the State Constitution (of Bahia) says that it is the obligation of the state to preserve and guarantee the integrity, respectability, and permanence of the values of Afro-Brazilian religion.” Ricardo Augusto Schmitt, a criminal court judge in the city of Salvador, Bahia ruled in favor of the prosecution in May, and ordered the confiscation of all copies of the book from book stores in the state.”

Without that clause in the state constitution, the work could not have been confiscated. This doesn’t affect the work’s status in Brazil’s other states. The ruling will most likely be appealed by the book’s publisher, and the confiscation has incited claims that Bahia is trying to regulate the free exercise of Christianity.

“Federal Deputy Miguel Martini denounced the latest ruling on the floor of the nation’s Camber of Deputies (the lower legislative house), and expressed his concern that Brazil is beginning to censor the beliefs of Christians. ‘Where is this country going?” he asked. “There is a bill under consideration in the Senate that seeks to limit the expression, on the part of Christians, of their Biblical and Evangelical convictions. And now there is a (court) decision, which clearly should be appealed. I am certain that it will be overturned, because the publisher’s juridical board has already taken legal action.'”

Obviously, a scenario like this would be all but impossible in America, where the First Amendment usually trumps attempts to control the publication of hateful or inaccurate information (otherwise Chick Publications would be out of business). We tend to error on the side of freedom, though if your work is proven to be defaming (something difficult to do), the writer and publishers can lose quite a bit of money from awarded damages until the work is removed from the shelves.

So the big question here is if Abib knowingly committed libel, or if he was merely giving his (religiously-informed) opinion of the Afro-Brazilian faiths. In other words, would an American court find the work libelous? Could a tort be filed against them? Should any state enshrine the “permanence” of a faith? What do you think?