Last Updated 10 November 2016

Mexico, with a population of 118 million inhabitants, is the largest Spanish-speaking country in the world. Its secular constitution guarantees religious freedom. However, societal discrimination against certain religious minorities occurs, and journalists who criticise officials are frequently harassed and even attacked.

Systemic Discrimination
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Constitution and government

The Mexican constitution and other laws and policies guarantee religious freedom. The Mexican government is secular and the constitution stipulates that all individuals are free to proclaim their chosen religious identity and to engage in religious worship and ceremonies. The Mexican congress may not enact laws that establish or prohibit any particular religion. Furthermore, the constitution mandates the separation of church and state. The constitution also proscribes any type of discrimination, including on the basis of religious identity.

A constitutional amendment that came into effect in July 2013 specifically prohibits the use of acts of worship for political purposes. The amendment permits religious services to be conducted in “public as well as private” places, as well as adding “freedom of ethical convictions” to the constitution, designed to ensure the freedom to have no particular religious faith.

The constitution prohibits members of the clergy from holding public office, supporting partisan political views and backing political candidates, or openly opposing the institutions or laws of the state.

Registering religions

The law allows religious groups to operate without registering with the government, except in order to negotiate contracts and to acquire or rent land. Registration is required in order to apply for official building permits, to be in receipt of tax exemptions and to hold religious meetings outside their typical places of worship. In order to procure legal status, a religious group is obliged to register as a religious association. In order to register, a group must outline its fundamental precepts and religious beliefs, not be a for-profit organization and to pledge that it will not promote acts that are considered physically harmful or dangerous to its constituents. Religious associations in Mexico must notify the government of their intentions to organise a religious meeting outside of an officially licensed place of worship. Religious associations are not allowed to hold any political meetings.

Education and children’s rights

The constitution demands that public education must be secular. Religious groups are allowed to operate private schools.

Family, community and society

Societal abuses or discrimination based on religious practice persist. These incidents typically occurred in small rural communities in the south of the country. Numerous evangelical groups professed that religious abuses and discrimination were commonplace. Furthermore, there was a report in December 2013 that priests face a burgeoning amount of extortion attempts, death threats and intimidation.

In June 2013, there were reports that a group of about 200 Catholic Indians in Los Llanos, Chiapas, took 33 evangelical Indians captive, beat them and threatened to burn them alive. According to the victims’ relatives, the evangelicals were freed after they promised not to lodge a complaint.

Freedom of expression, advocacy of humanist values

Religious groups are prevented from administering radio or television stations. Government approval is required for commercial broadcasting of radio or television before disseminating religious programming.

In Mexico, journalists, especially those who criticise officials and report on crime, are routinely harassed and even attacked. It has been reported that 85 journalists were killed between 2000 and August 2013, and a further 20 disappeared between 2005 and April 2013, according to the government’s own national human rights commission – Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos (CNDH).

Mexican authorities routinely fail to adequately conduct investigations into crimes committed against journalists, often dismissing their cases promptly on account of their profession being considered a motive.

Furthermore, journalists often find themselves subject to self-censorship because of attacks committed by both government officials and by criminal gangs.

Under-regulation of state advertising in Mexico is particularly profuse which often results in a limited media freedom by giving the government unequal monetary control over the media.

Despite having created a special prosecutor’s office for Crimes against Freedom of Expression in 2006, it has only secured one criminal sentence from its 378 investigations conducted. However, in May 2013, legislation was enacted that gave the Federal Prosecutor’s Office complete jurisdiction over any investigation into attacks on the media.

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