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Mexican Law and Religious freedom

Our litigation team, again before the Supreme Court of Mexico. The subject: Religious freedom.

Mexico's Supreme Court of Justice will resolve an emblematic religious freedom and inheritance rights case.

Summary of the facts:

An elderly person drafted a will leaving as heir of all his assets to a priest of the Catholic Church.

The only living relative of the author of the will hired the services of our firm to claim the nullity of the will. The Federal Constitution and the Civil Code contain an absolute prohibition for church ministers to acquire by inheritance. This prohibition has deep historical roots in Mexico, due to a fundamental principle of church-state separation.

Mexican Law and Religious freedom

The trial judge as well as the State Court of Appeals declared the will valid. The State Court of Appeals recognized that the prohibition of inheritance for priests exists, but considered that such restriction is unconstitutional, as it affects the fundamental rights of priests. In the Court of Appeal’s opinion, the right to inherit must be protected over the restriction to inherit. For this reason, using diffuse constitutional control, the Court decided to disregard the law that prohibits ministers of worship from inheriting property.

Judicial review:

Our litigation team challenged the State Court judgment. Normally, these types of matters are resolved by a Federal Circuit Court. However, given the importance of the precedent, we asked the Mexican Supreme Court to hear the case.

The Supreme Court accepted our petition and assumed jurisdiction in this matter. Our brief is already under consideration, and Minister Margarita Rios Fajart has been appointed as the Minister rapporteur, with file number xxx.

Issues to be resolved by the Supreme Court of Justice:

In resolving this case, the Supreme Court of Justice will issue a relevant precedent, in matters of inheritance law, religious freedom and freedom of worship. The Court will have to place, on one side of the scale, the freedom to make a will and the right to inherit. And on the other side, the historical principle of freedom of worship and separation of Church-State, as well as its evolution in the history of Mexico. In order to decide the above, an in-depth study of the scope, evolution, and interpretation of Article 130 of the Mexican Constitution must be made.

What are the implications of this case?

Litigation involving religious freedom and freedom of worship is not frequent. Although the heart of the matter appears to be a question of inheritance law, in addressing the issue the Court will have to issue a pronouncement that could reshape the position of churches and religious ministers before civil legislation.

Our litigation team, in this case, is led by the Partner Jorge E. de Hoyos Walther, with 35 years of expertise in Federal Appeals, the Partner Jaleyna de la Peña Molina, an expert in family and inheritance law, and Rafael Obregón Orendain, an associate specializing in family and constitutional law.

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