| Religious Freedom Ranking:
2.5 out of 5 stars: Needs Improvement
The Constitution protects religious freedom and provides for the separation of church and state. Article 24 states that all persons are free to acknowledge and practice their chosen religious belief. The Religious Associations and Public Worship Law describe the administrative remedies that protect the right to religious freedom. However, there were some notable restrictions on religious freedom at the local level. Non-Catholic believers report difficulty in obtaining use of the radio airwaves and various forms of discrimination in obtaining public services. Officials sometimes failed to punish private parties responsible for persecuting minority religious believers.
There were reports of societal abuses and discrimination based on religious beliefs in small rural communities in the state of Chiapas. Government officials, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), evangelical Christians, and Catholic representatives concurred that these controversies were pointed to political, ethnic or land disagreements connected to the traditional practices and customs of indigenous communities. Some local officials reportedly influenced religious tensions in their communities for their own political or economic benefit.
Poor legal enforcement allowed officials in several states to persecute persons based on their religious beliefs. Federal and local government officials repeatedly failed to punish those responsible for acts of religious discrimination. When there were criminal investigations, they tended to be a lengthy process.
The country has a population of 112 million. A 2000 census estimated that approximately 88 percent of the population identified themselves as Catholic. Other evangelical groups include Presbyterians, Baptists, Methodists, Nazarenes and Mennonites. There are Seventh-day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Muslims and Jews. It is reported that 3 percent of the population do not practice any religion.
The government observes Christmas Day as a national holiday; however, most employers also grant Holy Thursday, Good Friday, All Souls' Day, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and Christmas Eve to employees as paid holidays.
The Secretariat of Government coordinates religious affairs with the federal government. The General Directorate for Religious Associations (GDAR) endorses religious tolerance and examines religious intolerance.
It is required that all religious organizations obtain a permit to construct new buildings or change existing buildings into houses of worship.
It is optional for religious organizations to formally register with the government; however, for a religious organization to receive legal status, it must register with the GDAR as a religious association. Religious associations may not hold any sort of political meeting.
Public education must be secular. Religious groups are free to maintain private schools.
Visas for foreign religious workers are limited; however, the application process is routine and simple.
Religious associations may not own or administer broadcast radio or television channels. Government permission is mandatory for commercial religious broadcasting of radio or television. It is difficult for non-Catholic faith groups to receive this kind of authorization. This has resulted in the proliferation of over 400 pirate radio stations throughout the country, at least 100 of which broadcast evangelical Protestant programs. In 2009 GDAR and the Federal Communications Commission and the Directorate of Radio, Television and Cinematography consulted with 30 stations and agreed to assist in obtaining licenses.
In the central and southern regions, evangelical groups were reportedly unwelcome by local communities. Community leaders reportedly ordered the harassment or expulsion of individuals belonging to Protestant evangelical groups.
Evangelicals complained particularly of water cut-offs, expulsion from their villages, loss of community rights and personal possessions, beatings, death threats, the burning of their churches and homes, and denial of government subsidies due to religious affiliation.
Evangelical Andrés Carrillo Roma was jailed for 15 hours when he refused to act as an attorney for the local Catholic Church.
In January members of an evangelical congregation left their community in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, after a chain of violent confrontations. According to police records, local citizens destroyed the evangelical church. A group of Catholics demanded that the evangelicals leave the community or face eviction. When they did not, local citizens reportedly burned one of their vehicles, stole their livestock, prevented them from collecting firewood and planting corn, and tore down 13 homes. The
Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos (CNDH) requested the governor of Chiapas and the municipality of San Cristóbal de las Casas to provide humanitarian assistance to victims. The CNDH instigated training on respect for human rights and religious tolerance.
The National Bar of Christian Lawyers reported that there were at least 60 unresolved religious cases in the country at the end of the reporting period. Since July 1, the DGAR, the president of CNDH, government officials and interfaith groups assisted dialogue and training in 15 cases of religious persecution. Its goal is to promote and teach social harmony among different religious groups. There are interfaith councils in Mexico City, Chiapas, Nuevo León and Yucatán.
2010 U.S. State Department International Religious Freedom on Mexico