Brazil’s religious liberty advocates think that a bill recently passed by a committee in the Chamber of Deputies — the nation’s Lower House — is a milestone for students who observe the biblical seventh-day Sabbath in that South American nation. Members of the Constitution, Justice, and Citizenship Committee (CCJ) passed Senate Substitute Bill 130 of House Bill 2009 on November 27, 2018. The bill deals with the administration of exams and class attendance of students who are unable to attend on religious and freedom-of-conscience grounds.
The piece of legislation, drafted by the Senate, received “conclusive approval,” which means it will not go to a plenary session of the Chamber but now awaits the president’s signature. It is expected that after the president signs it, the text of the bill will be included as Article 7-A in the National Education Guidelines and Bases Law.
What It Entails
Leaders said that in practice, Sabbath-keeping students attending public or private schools now have a legal instrument which guarantees their freedom of conscience and religious beliefs are taken into account. “The text provides for the right of students at any level — except in military education — to skip exams or classes on their day of worship when their faith objects to such activities,” they explained.
The CCJ, which discussed the bill, included alternatives that schools granting exceptions may resort to. Among the alternatives they mentioned are replacement exams or classes and the offer of alternate dates to fulfill class requirements. They also listed replacement research projects, with topic, objectives, and deadlines defined by each educational institution.
Official records show that Representative Marcos Vinícius de Campos proposed a similar bill in 1997. According to Federal Chamber records, however, that bill was tabled and finally filed in February 1999.