Jair Bolsonaro gets a “terribly evangelical” pastor to join the supreme court of Brazil

The Brazilian Senate approved the appointment of the former Minister of Justice, André Mendonça, a Presbyterian pastor, to serve on the supreme court, in a victory for President Jair Bolsonaro, who promised to impose a “terribly evangelical” judge in the highest court.

By 47 votes in favor and 32 against, the Plenary endorsed the appointment of Mendonça, 48, who from mid-December will occupy the eleventh judge chair of the Federal Supreme Court (STF), in Brasilia, replacing Marco Aurelio Mello, retired since July.

The appointment of the also former Minister of the Attorney General of the Union (AGU, which represents the interests of the State) is seen as positive for conservative sectors, since the STF, in addition to judging authorities with jurisdiction, sets the course on issues such as minority rights, abortion, drugs or access to weapons, very sensitive in Brazil and on the radar of the supreme court.

Before the vote in the Plenary, Mendonça answered questions from the senators of the Constitution and Justice Commission (CCJ) for hours, and among other things defended the secularism of the Brazilian state:

“In life, the Bible; in the STF, the Constitution,” he declared.

“Although I am an evangelical, there is no space for public-religious demonstrations during the sessions of the Supreme Federal Court,” added the former minister, considered a conservative in terms of customs.

“I will defend the constitutional right of civil marriage for people of the same sex,” he responded to a senator.

Mendonça has been a member of Bolsonaro’s government since he came to power in January 2019, with the fundamental support of evangelicals, a sector on the rise in Brazil, where according to a Datafolha survey from January 2020 it already represents 31% of the population.

For the professor and public law lawyer Michael Mohallem, the approval of Mendonça is a victory, heading into the 2022 elections, for Bolsonaro.

The president defended his approval on Tuesday during his affiliation with the Liberal Party and at a dinner offered in his honor at the Palacio da la Alvorada, the official residence, together with the evangelical staff.

“His appointment is political. It allows him to retain the electoral support of the evangelicals and also a reading will be made that Bolsonaro still controls the majority in the Senate when he needs it,” Mohallem explained to AFP.

Born in Santos (Sao Paulo), Mendonça is a lawyer and has specialized in anti-corruption issues. Between April 2020 and March 2021 he was Minister of Justice and Public Security. He is pastor of the Esperança Presbyterian Church, located in Brasilia.

He is the second highest court judge appointed by Bolsonaro, after Kassio Nunes Marques in 2020.


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