Baja California legislature fails to protect religious liberty, bishops state

The bishops of the Mexican state of Baja California say they are disappointed that the state legislature failed to ratify a constitutional amendment that would have better protected religious liberty.

"The Catholic Church is deeply saddened that our lawmakers have not adopted this reform which guaranteed this fundamental right," they said in a statement sent to CNA June 5.

The amendment to Article 24 of the Mexican Constitution would have removed the current rule which requires government authorization to hold worship services outside of places of worship. An amendment to Article 40 also added the word "secular" to clarify the country's form of government.

On March 28, the Mexican Senate adopted both amendments and sent them to the state legislatures for ratification.  A majority of states need to ratify the changes in order for them to take effect.

Baja California is one of 32 Mexican states that must vote on the amendments, and the process of voting is currently ongoing.

Both reforms would have ensured that the "fundamental issues of religious freedom and the secular state" would be "fully guaranteed in our country," the bishops said in their statement.

Opponents to Amendment 24 said it would have given special privileges to religion by allowing worship outside of sacred spaces.

"This Constitutional reform did not entail privileges of any sort, nor discrimination in favor of or against any religious group or association. It was simply the recognition of a fundamental right of all Mexicans," the bishops stated.

The bishops said that "failing to adopt the amendment to Article 24 contradicts the democratic spirit of the state, which has the task of ensuring the freedom of its citizens, without restrictions."
They expressed support for those "who have rejected this negative vote of the State Congress," because it constitutes "a step backwards in matters related to our freedoms."

"True religious freedom is that which allows people to express their religious and ethical convictions in all areas of social life. Without the recognition of religious freedom and freedom of conscience, all other freedoms lack their true foundation and run the risk of being dehumanized," the bishops said.

These right of freedom of conscience is based on the dignity of the human person, the bishops noted.

"The State only recognizes, guarantees and protects" those rights, they said, adding, "Our representatives do not know this, or if they did, they have forgotten it."

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