Preaching Hate in Guatemala: Rightwing evangelicals in the Central American country are taking a page from religious bigots in the United States.

AuthorAbbott, Jeff

A sense of shock rippled across the social movements of Guatemala late in the evening of March 8, 2022. Commemorations of International Women's Day were just wrapping up when news broke that Guatemalan lawmakers were about to pass one of the most regressive and hateful pieces of legislation in years.

Abortion was already illegal in Guatemala, but on March 8, legislators passed a bill to further restrict women's rights and threaten LGBTQ+ rights. The Protection of Life and the Family Law, proposed in 2017 by far-right evangelicals and conservative Catholics in congress, would punish those who have an abortion with up to twenty-five years in prison, and target doctors who perform them. It would also prohibit same-sex marriage and outlaw inclusive sex education in schools. In addition, the legislation deems LGBTQ+ people "abnormal."

"The bill promotes and incites hateful actions against the LGBTQ+ community," Claudia Rosales, of the Sexual and Reproductive Rights Consortium, said during protests days later. "It normalizes heterosexuality as the only way to express love," Rosales added. "That puts [the LGBTQ+ community] at risk."

The draconian legislation was advanced by members of the previous congress but failed to pass due to a lack of quorum. The new congress that took office after elections in 2019 resurrected it.

While the bill was met with protests by Guatemala's LGBTQ+ community and women's rights groups, evangelical groups celebrated, including many in the United States. At an event in Guatemala City, the day after the bill was passed by the congress, Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei once again declared the country the "pro-life capital of Ibero-America," a refrain he has often repeated since taking office three years ago--one that has energized members of the religious right in both Guatemala and the United States.

Among those in attendance were representatives from the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council (FRC), an evangelical lobbying group, and other U.S.-based pro-life organizations, including Students for Life of America, National Right to Life, Global Life Campaign, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and Americans United for Life.

In a podcast shortly after the bills passage, hosted by FRC President Tony Perkins, guest David Closson, director of the FRC s Center for Biblical Worldview, called the Guatemalan president "courageous." He then praised the legislation, celebrating it among other legislative rollbacks of women's rights across the hemisphere, including in Colombia, Mexico, and Argentina. "They officially passed a law here in...

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