Vincent Bevins – Los Angeles Times, 10/21/2012
As euphoric rock music played, dozens of men in suits swarmed the aisles with hand-held credit card machines to take donations from the faithful.
The pastor smiled at the crowd in the downtown headquarters of the mega-church and, as cameras rolled, belted out: “We all voted already, right? Who voted today?”
In the spotlight, he made no mention of whom he hoped his flock had cast ballots for. But for most in the crowd, and those watching the election for the mayor of Latin America’s largest city, it was clear which candidate Brazil’s increasingly influential evangelical churches were throwing their weight behind.
Television personality Celso Russomanno took Brazil’s political establishment by surprise when he shot to the top of the polls in the run-up to the election. Although he is Roman Catholic, his relatively new Brazilian Republican Party is backed by the powerful Igreja Universal do Reino de Deus, or Universal Church of the Kingdom of God.
In the world’s largest Catholic country, a group of well-organized evangelical churches is rewriting the rules of politics here. In the process, the evangelicals have dismayed Brazilians uneasy with such blatant mixing of religion and politics.