The constitution states all persons are free to profess their chosen religious belief and to engage in ceremonies and acts of worship. Congress may not enact laws that establish or prohibit any religion. The constitution also provides for the separation of church and state. It prohibits any form of discrimination, including on the basis of religion. A constitutional amendment that took effect in 2013 specifically prohibits the use of acts of worship for political purposes. The amendment allows for religious services to take place “in public as well as private” places, and added “freedom of ethical convictions” to the constitution, intended to guarantee the freedom to have no religious faith. In 2012, the legislature passed an amendment to the constitution that added the adjective “secular” to the definition of the Republic of Mexico.
Under the law, religious groups are permitted to operate informally without registering with the government. In accord with the constitution, however, religious groups must be registered to negotiate contracts and purchase or rent land, apply for official building permits, receive tax exemptions, and hold religious meetings outside their customary places of worship. To establish a religious association, applicants must certify the church or religious group is occupied with observance, practice, propagation, or instruction of religious doctrine or body of religious beliefs; has conducted religious activities in Mexico for at least five years, becoming deeply rooted within the population, and has established domicile in the republic; shows sufficient assets to achieve its purpose; has established statutes; and has met constitutional provisions. Registered associations are entitled to use a unique name; freely organize their internal structures and adopt bylaws or rules governing their authority and operating system, including the training and appointment of their clergy; engage in religious public worship and propagate their doctrine, within applicable regulations; celebrate all acts for the fulfillment of the association’s purpose that are lawful and not for the purpose of making a profit; and participate alone or associated with individuals or corporations in the creation, management, maintenance, and operation of private welfare, educational, and health institutions, provided they are not for profit and legal. The law also defines administrative remedies protecting the right to religious freedom.
The law requires religious groups to apply for a permit to construct new buildings or to convert existing buildings into houses of worship. Any religious building constructed after 1992 is the property of the religious group that built it. All religious buildings erected before 1992 are classified as part of the national patrimony, owned by the state, and exempt from taxes.
Under the law, religious associations must notify the government of their intention to hold a religious meeting outside a licensed place of worship. Religious associations may not hold political meetings of any kind.
The federal government coordinates religious affairs through the Secretariat of Government (SEGOB). Within SEGOB, the General Directorate for Religious Associations (DGAR) promotes religious tolerance, conducts conflict mediation, and investigates cases of religious intolerance.
In addition to federal government offices, each of the country’s 32 federative entities has administrative offices with responsibility over religious affairs. Chiapas, Guerrero, Yucatan, and Oaxaca States have undersecretaries for religious affairs.
If parties present a dispute based on allegations of religious intolerance, the DGAR will work to mediate a solution. If that mediation fails, the parties may submit the issue to the DGAR for binding arbitration. If the parties do not agree to this procedure, one or the other may seek judicial redress.
The constitution states public education must be secular, but religious groups are permitted to operate private schools. The law takes no position on primary-level homeschooling for religious reasons; however, to enter a secondary school, one must have attended an accredited primary school. Homeschooling is allowed at the secondary level after completion of schooling at an accredited primary school.
The constitution bars members of the clergy from holding public office; advocating partisan political views; supporting political candidates; or publically opposing the laws or institutions of the state.
Under the law, religious groups may not own or administer radio or television stations. Government permission is required for commercial radio or television to transmit religious programming.