In the United States, when clergy urge their congregations to vote for or against a particular law or candidate, the federal government typically has this concern: Have the clergy as leaders of tax-exempt religious groups overstepped the legal bounds that qualify them and their churches for tax exempt status? If so, that exemption can be revoked. In Mexico, however, where the Catholic bishops have been speaking out against legal abortion and gay marriage, the Mexican government has taken a different, more destructive tack. The government sees the bishops' expressed political views as a violation against Mexico’s secular state.

But is that accurate? Or is the real issue the Mexican government’s attempt to limit the bishops’ civil right of free speech?

In his article on Time.com, Tim Padgett, a reporter with long experience in the region, takes the position that the Mexican government’s response diminishes the country’s democracy. And he sides with the bishops.  Writes Padgett: “It's one thing to separate church and state – to prevent governments from endorsing one faith over others, for example, or to strip a church of its charitable tax-exempt status if it turns its pulpit into a political action committee. But it's another thing to violate civil rights. By continuing to enforce the Religious Associations Law, Mexico's politicians risk looking like censors who use the same muzzling practices they claimed to abhor when the PRI was in power.”

In a democracy where the charitable tax exemption is not offered, the bishops, like all other citizens, have a civil right to express their case in public. That might well influence the secular state, which is what the government fears. But, if Padget is right, it will certainly make the democratic state stronger.

Karen Sue Smith

 

Comments

6466379 | 8/4/2011 - 3:09pm
I don’t know how this works, but unless one questions the veracity of scripture, we discover that  Satan has associates in “high places” working with him, often unknowingly I suppose. “High Places?” What does that mean? Does it speak for example,  of those people who make evil  laws burdening multitudes ? A pretty good bet I’d say considering the moral depravity that has crept into the administration of Law worldwide! Medicine too! Education too! In Mexico too, the land of Our Lady of Guadalupe!
If you ask some politicians, like certain Mexican government officials who say that Bishops who oppose  Mexico’s  pro-abortion/pro-homosexual agenda, are in violation of Mexican secular law, they will certainly deny that they are associates of Satan. .Dingbats! “By their fruits shall you know  them!” Don’t they realize that western secular law, its system of jurisprudence,  is rooted in the Ten Commandments?  This applies  everywhere in this world where Judeo/Christian morality determined its civilization and culture, including the United States.
If its true that the moral climate of the world has grown cold weakened by the corruption of law, as a “digger” searching history’s dust bins for clues and causes,  I ask myself, “Do people gather figs from thistles? No! But sometimes one may find thistles mixed in with  a basket of figs! What do I man? The “basket of figs” is the corpus of  righteous law, the “thistles” corrupt jurisprudential impositions. I mean  the shattering of the  crumbling house of God, the Church, at Worms, so weakened the solidarity of moral togetherness that it  set in motion not only what is now happening in  Mexico but worldwide,  a kind of “do as you please” morality an attitude of  the dominance of  non-absolutes,  weakening the concept of the universality  of the Christian application of the Ten Commandments, the root of all legal certitude.  Respectfully the Reformation  is certainly not the only cause  for the moral babel within the Christian community, not the only “thistles in the basket of figs”  reality, with outcomes unintended and unforeseen  by Luther or any of the Reformers. At least for the well-meaning Reformers what has happened  fortifies   what they profoundly abhorred - people in “high places” promoting  corrupt and evil laws. 
 Am I ‘way of the wall in this interpretation? I apologize if these words offend anyone. It is not my intention to offend - just locate probable reasons why Christianity is in such disarray. 20,000 Christian ecclesial communities in this Country alone claiming to be the authentic Church of Christ, in conflict on how Christian morality is to be applied, is mind boggling!   I hope these lines are not agonizingly simplistic, but do contain the redeeming grace of truth. May Our Lady of Gudalupe  Mexico’s Virgin, once again crush the head of the Serpent’s error entwining itself around Mexican lawmakers, indeed of the world!
Tom Maher | 8/2/2011 - 11:30pm

Free speech is a powerful and fundemental advance in human civilization that every state needs to  recognize and respect.  At a minimum the individual or group has an inherent human right to express their grievances, concerns and aspriations to or about the the state  without special qualification to speak, permission by the state or fear of punishment  for speaking.   The state has no legitimate role in regulating free speech but especially political free speech about public policy.  

This article's analysis that that the Mexican bishops have free speech rights that are being violated by the stateis is correct.  The fact the bishops are part of the church is irrelevant to their free-speech right of expression. 

Free speech unfortunetly is always under attack everywhere.  It is very often inconvienent for the state to have its policies or practices criticized or commented on.  Implicitily public comment makes the state accountable to public concerns.  The state will attempt to suppress free speech under some pretext that a policy or official should not be criticized.  The state attempts to not only suppress speech but punish people for speaking.  Suppressing and punishing free speech is primitive raw abuse of power that a state has no legitimate right to be use against anyone or any group.  As the article corectly notes state sttempts to suppress free speech is destuctive.

People everywhere ? need to be alert to ?d?e?f?e?n?d? ?t?h?e? ?b?l?e?s?s?i?n?g?s? ?o?f? ??????????????????????free speech???? ?w?e? ?a?l?l? ?e?n?j?o?y?.? ? ????????L?i?k?e? ?a? ?d?i?s?e?a?s?e? ?a????????? ????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????state attack on free speech can happen anywhere and at anytime.
Tom Maher | 8/3/2011 - 12:59pm
Dave Smith (#2)

Mexico's blatant attack on free speech is crude enough for people to notice its raw effects:  government censorship of political messages critical of government policy and the attempt by the state to harm and  punish people and organizations such as the church who are crtical of government policy.  This where the state creates a "chilling effect" on free speech in making people fearful of speaking.  It is the state acting like a thug. 

The more usuual and subtlerr claim by the  state including the United States is that the state is protecting society from being harmed by polictical speech.  In fact society is harmed when free speech is suppressed by the state even when the suppression is done with more finesse than Mexico.  ??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????