Seemingly, it’s a simple, unimportant little blue plaque, sitting on a wasteland in Brasilia. Above, we can see the logo of the Federal District (a golden tree on an azure background), a psalm taken from the Bible (“Your word is a lamp at my feet, and a light at my path”), but also the following statement, with the date of December 18, 2019: “Governor Ibaneis Rocha laid the foundation stone here for the future National Bible Museum. “
The project, led by the strong man of the capital of Brazil (it is he, and not a mayor, who administers the city), has been at the heart of all controversies for two years. Officially, it is a monument in homage to the sacred text of Christians, to be erected on the most prestigious place of Brasilia: the Monumental Axis, a grandiose artery 16 kilometers long, where ministries follow one another, the Presidency and Parliament, all buildings designed by Brazilian star architect Oscar Niemeyer.
An “affront to secularism”
In a 90% Christian country, the project was intended to unite, originally providing for a sumptuous complex of 15,000 square meters, capable of welcoming 100,000 visitors per year, including restaurants, theaters, cinemas, library and venues. thematic exhibitions dedicated to the history of the Bible. The whole, housed in a sublime setting, a concrete building designed by Niemeyer himself, for 12 million euros of public budget.
“Brazil is a secular state but not an atheist state. God is cited in the preamble to the Constitution. »Marco Feliciano, evangelical pastor and federal deputy
But the museum was quickly doomed to complaining. In 2020, the Brazilian Association of Atheists and Agnostics (ATEA), outraged, took legal action to oppose the project, which would constitute, according to it, a “Affront to religious freedom and secularism” proclaimed in Brazil since 1890. In times of health and economic crisis, public money could be used to renovate existing cultural facilities or to build hospitals and social housing, believes the atheist organization.
The Bible Museum “Absolutely does not call into question the secular state”, defends the Federal District, which, in a press release addressed to M, recalls that the place will be a cultural equipment of knowledge and knowledge, and not a ” place of worship “. “The Bible has strongly influenced the arts, literature, philosophy, scientific thought”, explains the local culture secretariat, stressing that “Similar museums exist in many places of the world, for example in Washington”.
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