There is religious freedom in Mexico and Mexico is a country with religious tolerance but like most countries, there are a few problems regarding tolerance.
Religious freedom and religious tolerance are not the same things. Whether there is religious freedom or not is determined by laws. Religious tolerance varies depending on the actions of the people.
Mexico has not always had religious freedom. The original indigenous people did not allow other religions. After the Spanish conquered Mexico, the Roman Catholic Church became the only church. Following Mexican Independence in the 1800’s, the power of the church was severely limited but the Roman Catholic Church remained as the only church permitted by the government.
Religious freedom occurred after the Mexican Revolution of 1910. The Mexican Constitution of 1917 allows everyone to worship as they wish and allows them to choose and express their religious beliefs. The Constitution also specifically separates church and state. Provisions of the Constitution prevent the government from prohibiting, establishing or promoting any religion. A recent amendment even prohibits churches from using religious services for political purposes.
Religious tolerance can be viewed by either the actions of a government or by the population. The ancient cultures, the Spanish conquerors, and the early Mexican revolutionaries can all be described as being intolerant of other religions. The the intolerance continued but shifted after the Mexican Revolution. The early Mexican Government became very intolerant towards the Roman Catholic Church and they imposed strict anti-clerical laws. The Constitution of 1857 took away the privileges of the Church and president Benito Juárez even took control of the Church properties. This led to three years of religious civil war.
The Constitution of 1917 granted religious freedom, but it imposed many restrictions on the Church. When these provisions were enforced, it led to another religious war, the Cristeros Revolution. The revolution ended following public outrage when a revolutionary assassinated President Obregón.
The restrictive clauses were removed from the Constitution and relations were restored between Mexico and the Vatican in 1992. The removal of these clauses also aided the spread of non-Catholic religions in Mexico.
This spread of other religions has led to cases of religious intolerance from the population. The most common problems are the many conflicts between indigenous populations who practice the Mexican version of Catholicism with non-Catholics. The situation is complicated because the Constitution allows special rights for indigenous communities and because the Mexican government has a strong commitment not to become involved in religious matters. These problems are common in the states of Chiapas, Oaxaca, Guerrero, Hidalgo, and Puebla. Recent news reports gave one example where a Protestant family was forced from their home and the community.
On the other hand, another recent newspaper article told of Jehovah’s Witnesses vandalizing a 7,000-year-old Mexican Temple where they destroyed at least a dozen stone idols.
But these problems are rare and when you consider Mexico with other countries, it definitely has religious freedom and is basically tolerant of other beliefs. I commonly see people of different beliefs and from different churches helping each other.
Old Basilica of our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City
Carvings by the Temple of the Sun at Teotihuacán in Mexico
Basilica of our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City
Cultural Center, Tijuana, Mexico