For the second time in a month, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador met with a group of evangelical pastors to discuss a plan that would give the religious organization access to radio and TV channels to promote Christian morality, including a “say no to drugs” campaign, reports Mexican newspaper Milenio.
The meeting raised concerns not only among those fearing the end of the separation of church and state in Mexico, but also those who hoped President López Obrador, who ran on a staunchly leftist platform, would work for a more politically progressive country.
“In Mexico, it’s easier for pornographic channels to exist than one that broadcasts about values; love of the country, love of institutions,” said spokesperson for the group, the National Brotherhood of Christian Churches, Arturo Farela. “We need other channels, other radio stations that spread the principles and values that the Bible teaches.”
President López Obrador — popularly known by his initials AMLO — took office in December. He has raised eyebrows by taking actions that some see as woefully similar to his more conservative predecessors. In January, AMLO announced his government would distribute 8.5 million copies of the “Cartilla Moral” or “Moral Primer”, a text written in 1944 that proposes a nation based on religious morals and the nuclear family.
During the presidential campaign, AMLO indicated that rather than pursuing armed conflict to end the bloody War on Drugs that has gripped Mexico since 2006, he would offer academic scholarships and internships to young men to sway them from accepting positions with drug cartels. But in January, the president ordered the legislature, controlled by his Morena party, to change the constitution to allow for the creation of a new federal police force — a seeming about-face on the issue.
Marijuana remains illegal in Mexico, despite a November Supreme Court ruling that its prohibition violates Mexicans’ constitutional right to develop their personality. Though many were hopeful that a Morena presidential administration would legalize the drug if the party gained political control, no visible progress has been made on a legislative proposal made in August by President López Obrador’s Secretary of the Interior and Senator Olga Sánchez Cordero.
Sánchez Cordero’s bill, if passed, would legalize production, distribution, and consumption of recreational marijuana — even in many public spaces — for adults. Though it bans edible marijuana products, individuals would be allowed to grow up to 480 grams of cannabis a year, and companies to file for permits to grow and distribute weed.
But instead of heralding the passage of her bill, Senator Sánchez Cordero sat in on the meeting between AMLO and the Christians. She was reportedly tasked by the president with seeing to the logistics of giving the religious group access to the airwaves. The task may involve altering the Law of Religious Associations and Public Worship, which designates Mexico as a secular government.
Farela told the press that the National Brotherhood of Christian Churches has another meeting scheduled with AMLO to discuss the religious anti-drug programming on March 27.