Mexico

"The evangelical church is steadily becoming a visible presence in Mexican society."

For nearly 400 years, the evangelical faith and the study of the Bible were prohibited here. As early as the midsixteenth century, Lutherans who had come with the Spanish conquerors suffered persecution, and the Holy Inquisition was in force in Mexico longer than in many other countries. Eventually, under President Benito Juarez (1806-72), a growing reaction to the Catholic church's power led the government to enact anticlerical legislation, which remained in force until this decade and declared the following restrictions: (1) No church could legally own property; (2) foreigners could not serve as priests or pastors; (3) worship services should be held exclusively in temples or churches, not in public buildings; (4) clergy could not directly or indirectly criticize government authorities; (5) clergy could not vote or participate in politics; (6) mass media should not be used to promote religion; and (7) government leaders supposedly should never participate in religious ceremonies.

But in the early 1990s, President Carlos Salinas de Gortari succeeded in reforming the Constitution. As a result, any religious association may now bring in foreign missionaries or pastors provided they are officially affiliated with the church they serve, have their financial support guaranteed for the duration of their service, and fulfill the requirements of the laws of immigration (which are liberally applied). Compare this to the time when foreign missionaries ministered for decades by returning as "tourists."

Also, churches now can hold evangelistic campaigns or healing services in public places. Recently, for example, an evangelical group conducted a ...

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In the Magazine

November 16, 1998

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