The constitution guarantees all persons religious freedom, including the right to engage in religious ceremonies and acts of worship. The General Directorate for Religious Associations (DGAR) within the Interior Ministry, which is also known as the Secretariat of Governance or SEGOB, worked with state and local officials on criminal investigations involving religious groups. As of the end of the year, the DGAR had investigated three cases from the state of Chiapas related to religious freedom at the federal level, compared with six in 2016. Government officials stated many of the killings of and attacks on Catholic priests reflected high levels of generalized criminal violence throughout the country rather than targeting for religious beliefs. Some evangelical Protestant groups in remote indigenous areas reported abuse and discrimination by other members of the community and said local governments did not effectively intervene to assist them. According to some legal experts and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), laws intended to provide indigenous communities with autonomy to exercise traditional law had given local authorities the ability to harass some members of minority religious groups or force them to follow the majority religion in the area. Some members of minority religious groups in indigenous communities stated local authorities denied them public benefits and utility services due to their religious affiliation. According to the DGAR, most incidents of religious discrimination occurred under the jurisdiction of the state rather than the federal government.
The Catholic Multimedia Center (CMC) reported that criminal groups continued to target priests and other religious leaders in some parts of the country, including through killings, kidnappings, death threats, and extortion. The CMC reported criminal groups killed four priests and attempted to kidnap two other priests. On July 25, suspected criminal groups detonated an explosive device in front of the Mexican Episcopal Conference’s office in Mexico City. In August the CMC called Mexico the most violent country for priests in Latin America for the ninth year in a row. NGOs stated some priests were targeted because of their advocacy on human rights issues. Some evangelical Protestant groups said local community leaders pressured some Protestants in mainly rural and/or indigenous areas in Chiapas and Oaxaca States to participate in Catholic cultural-religious festivities. They said there had been instances in which those refusing to participate in the festivities, or in some cases to convert to Catholicism, faced forcible displacement from their communities, experienced arbitrary detention by local authorities, or had property destroyed by community leaders. Jewish community representatives reported low levels of anti-Semitic acts and good interreligious cooperation both from the government and civil society organizations in addressing those acts.
U.S. embassy and consulate representatives met with government counterparts to discuss concerns about violence toward Catholic priests and other religious leaders as well as reports of discrimination toward religious minorities, especially evangelical Protestants, in some communities. Embassy officials met with members of religious groups and NGOs to gather details about specific cases. During the annual U.S.-Mexico Human Rights Dialogue in December, U.S. government officials underscored the importance of protecting religious leaders.