SAO PAULO (RNS) — The apparently intentional escalation of fires in the Amazon rainforest has contributed to a growing political split among religious groups in Brazil, as the country’s Catholic bishops and Protestant denominations have spoken out against President Jair Bolsonaro’s environmental policies while his evangelical Christian allies have remained silent, or even debunked the criticism.

Though the fires have only come to the world’s attention in recent days, the controversy began in Brazil in July, when Bolsonaro contested the veracity of data showing the increasing deforestation rate of the Amazon. Brazil’s National Space Research Institute reported that the devastation of the Amazon grew 278% in July 2019 compared to July 2018.

Bolsonaro’s comments led to the dismissal of Ricardo Galvão, the physicist who directed

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