A bill has been proposed in Brazil to protect religious organisations which refuse to perform same-sex marriages.

The Brazilian National Council of Justice in May cleared the way for same-sex marriage across the country by ruling that gay couples can not be denied the right to marry.

The country’s congressional commission on human rights and minorities approved a text which, if approved by officials, would allow the church to discriminate against gay couples.

The commission,which is  headed by evangelical pastor Marco Feliciano, of the Social Christian Party,adopted the measure which allows any church to reject a person “who violate its values, doctrines and beliefs.”

“The proposal wishes to avoid priests being penalized if they refuse to carry out marriages, baptisms and other ceremonies between homosexuals or their children,” reported the parliamentary news service.

The proposal was criticised by Socialist lawmaker Chico Alencar, who said: “This means the decriminalisation of homophobia in churches. It harks back to the crusades; it is unconstitutional.”

The constitution and justice commission will now decide whether the bill can go forward for full debate in the country’s parliament.

A politician in Brazil who proposed legislation that would allow psychiatrists to treat homosexuality as a disease in July withdrew the bill before giving representatives a chance to vote on it.

It was approved last month by the Congressional Human Rights Commission and Minorities – but was withdrawn following massive protests.