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A vast blanket of white sand overlooking the Brazilian city Salvador became a flashpoint after City Hall began building a plaza at the dune’s base with bathrooms and a welcome center, and soon will start on a staircase leading up the sand. Afro Brazilian religious groups have protested what they see as elected representatives wielding power to conquer and christen another physical space, and politics poisoning religion ahead of the Oct. 2 election. Defenders of the project say it’s necessary to protect the fragile dunes from the huge influx of people. The project reinforces some people’s concern that the constitutionally enshrined secularism of the world’s fourth largest democracy is in jeopardy.

AP
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Newly baptized Casa de Oraçao church members Zerilda Souza, 57, from left, Bruno Jesus Santos, 32, and Joao Ferreira, 80, pose for a portrait on the shore of the Abaete Lagoon, in Salvador, Brazil, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022. While Catholicism is still the largest religion in Brazil, in recent years it has slipped below 50% of the population to lose its status as a majority faith even as evangelical churches have gained. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

AP
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A resident walks past a school adorned with religious symbols representing Judaism, from left, Christianity, Islam and the Afro Brazilian faith Candomble, paired with the Portuguese words for peace, tolerance and respect, in Salvador, Brazil, Friday, Sept. 16, 2022. Members of Afro Brazilian religious groups say evangelicals' rising influence in the country's halls of power and politics are straining interreligious relations ahead of the Oct. 2 general elections. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

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Clergy in 33 states are exempt from laws requiring professionals such as teachers, physicians and psychotherapists to report information about alleged child abuse to police or child welfare officials. That loophole has resulted in an unknown number of predators being allowed to continue abusing children for years despite having confessed the behavior to religious officials. An Associated Press review finds that over the past two decades, more than 130 bills have been proposed in state legislatures to create or amend child sex abuse reporting laws. After intense opposition from religious groups, the clergy privilege remained unchanged. Often, legislative efforts to close the loophole run up against lawmakers who are also church members.

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Activists say Iran's current wave of protests are different from previous unrest. Unleashing their anger at the compulsory veil for women, protesters are targeting something central to the identity of Iran's Islamic cleric-led rule. The protests are drawing from a long history of resistance among Iranian women. During the 1979 revolution, the hijab was a sign of breaking with the secular monarchy. But when the new Islamic Republic then made wearing it mandatory, thousands of women marched in protests. Woman have been challenging the rule ever since. The death of a woman arrested for wearing too loose a headscarf has sparked an eruption of anger.

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FILE - The angel Moroni statue atop the Salt Lake Temple is silhouetted against a cloud-covered sky, at Temple Square in Salt Lake City on Feb. 6, 2013. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

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FILE - Republican Rep. Merrill Nelson speaks during a special session at the Utah State Capitol, April 18, 2018, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

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FILE - Rep. Angela Romero speaks on the steps of the state Capitol, during a rally to gain support for removing the clergy exemption from mandatory reporting in cases of abuse and neglect, on Friday, Aug. 19, 2022, in Salt Lake City. (Rick Egan/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP, File)

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FILE- MJ and her adoptive mother sit for an interview in Sierra Vista, Ariz., Oct. 27, 2021. State authorities placed MJ in foster care after learning that her father, the late Paul Adams, sexually assaulted her and posted video of the assaults on the Internet. (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills, File)

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FILE - Kristy Johnson speaks during a news conference June 28, 2018, in Salt lake City. Johnson, a California woman suing her father for sexual abuse that occurred during her childhood, says Mormon church leaders allowed the sexual assault to continue by failing to report it to police. Johnson said that her now-deceased mother told local church leaders about the abuse multiple times during the 1960-1970s. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)