On Thursday, the Brazilian supreme court issued a ruling allowing Netflix to continue showing a film depicting Jesus Christ in a gay relationship. This was a reversal of a lower court’s ruling that the film be taken down.
Earlier that day, Netflix filed an official complaint to the supreme court, arguing that the decision to remove the film amounts to censorship.
The film depicts Jesus returning home with his boyfriend, Orlando, after spending 40 days in the desert.
“It is not to be assumed that a humorous satire has the magic power to undermine the values of the Christian faith, whose existence goes back more than two thousand years,” supreme court president José Antonio Dias Toffoli wrote in his decision.
The satirical film, titled “The First Temptation of Christ”, was released as a Christmas special on the streaming service on December 3. It was immediately greeted with criticism from conservative politicians and fervent Christians in the country. The film also sparked online petitions, with one petition on Change.org receiving over 2.3 million signatures that called for its removal.
The creators of the film, a Brazilian production company called Porta dos Fundos, have defended it as a legitimate freedom of expression.
Porta dos Fundos said it was against “any act of censorship, violence, illegality, authoritarianism and all the things we no longer expected to have to repudiate in 2020. Our job is to make humor.”
Fábio Porchat, cofounder of the group, told Variety last month that the criticism of the comedy special was “homophobic.”
“For some Catholics here in Brazil, it’s okay if Jesus is a bad guy, uses drugs, that’s no problem,” Porchat said. “The problem is he’s gay. No, he can’t be gay. And that’s interesting because Jesus is everything. God is black and white and gay and straight. God is everything. It’s more homophobic to be insulted by a gay Jesus than to make Jesus special.”
Why the film was initially removed
On Wednesday, a judge in Rio de Janeiro ruled that Netflix should remove the film in response to a lawsuit filed by Centro Dom Bosco, a Brazilian Christian organization, which considers the film to be blasphemous.
Judge Benedicto Abicair said his decision would temporarily appease angry Christians until a final decision was made by a higher court. “Exhibiting the ‘artistic production’… may cause graver and more irreparable damage than its suspension,” the judge said.
Netflix had appealed the lower court’s ruling, stating that “We strongly support artistic expression and we will fight to defend this important principle, which is the heart of great stories.”
Attack on Porta dos Fundos
On Christmas Eve, Porta dos Fundos’ headquarters was attacked with Molotov cocktails by masked assailants belonging to a far-right religious group in Brazil. No one was injured and the fire, which was put out by security guards, did little damage.
A video was posted online on Christmas Day showing a group in ski-masks claiming responsibility for the attack. The group identified itself as the “The Popular Nationalist Insurgency Command of the Large Brazilian Integral Family”.
Police have identified one of the men suspected of being involved in the attack. The man, Eduardo Fauzi, is a 41-year-old resident of Rio de Janeiro who flew to Moscow shortly after the attack.
Censorship under Bolsonaro
The ruling has revived allegations of censorship under President Jair Bolsonaro. Bolsanaro has stated that he supports traditional Christian values.
Bolsanoro’s administration has slashed funding for arts projects that tackle issues related to the LGBTQ+ community, sexual diversity and race.
Bolsonaro’s son, Eduardo Bolsonaro, said on Twitter that “The First Temptation of Christ” is “garbage” and that Porta dos Fundos does “not represent Brazilian society.”