After harsh debate behind closed doors, the Mexican Senate approved last week proposed religious reforms to the country’s Constitution, reaffirming the “lay state” as set out in Article 40, and guaranteeing religious freedom in Article 24.

 Article 40 says: “It is the will of the Mexican people to constitute themselves as a representative, democratic, lay, federal Republic, composed of free and sovereign States with regard to everything having to do with their internal governance, yet united in a federation established according to the principles of this fundamental law.”

The approved changes to Article 24 establish the freedom of “ethical convictions, of conscience and of religion.” Even though the paragraph regarding religious teaching, the electoral activity of the clergy or the use of churches as means of communication for the spreading of their beliefs was removed in the commissions studying the proposed bills, those opposed maintain that the phrase “freedom of ethical convictions” added to the text of the Constitution “opens a crack” to change the secondary law that regulates religious associations. 

The Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), the Labor Party (PT), and the Citizens Movement joined forces to reject the project. The president of the Commission on Constitutional Matters, former governor Melquiades Morales, defended the reform arguing that the freedom of ethical convictions is a guarantee for a “universe of different religious currents and those who are atheists and agnostics.”    

The Senate-approved reforms now go before the state legislatures. For the reforms to become law, their approval by 16 state legislatures is required.

Among the reforms subject to approval is the stipulation that “the religious ceremonies of public worship will ordinarily be celebrated in the church buildings. Those that in extraordinary circumstances are celebrated outside of church buildings will be subject to the regulating law.”