Protestants expelled from Mexican community for refusing to denounce faith

The government is accused of failing to uphold constitutional freedoms for religious minorities in Mexico.Reuters

Two Mexican Protestants were reportedly imprisoned and then expelled from their community in Mexico's Hidalgo State for refusing to denounce their faith.

According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), cousins Casto Hernandez and Juan Placido Hernández were imprisoned for 30 hours by officials in Chichiltepec village, in Mexico's Tlanchinol Municipality, for allegedly holding non-Roman Catholic religious rights in Casto's home.

Pastor Marcopolo Valdéz Guzmán told CSW that village officials in Chichiltepec forced the Protestant minority in the village to sign a document that barred them from affiliating with religions outside the Roman Catholic Church. Even though the Protestants refused, CSW learned that the village officials themselves signed the document for the minority. 

The officials then declared the document as "binding" on the village's occupants, including the Protestant minority.

Pastor Guzman is the president of the Pastors' Alliance for the Sierra and Huasteca, the region where Chichiltepec lies.

According to Pastor Guzman, Casto was summoned from work on March 12 to answer allegations against him of hosting non-Roman Catholic religious meetings in his home. The leaders then produce a document that said Casto was  renouncing all his rights as a member of the community and that he was surrendering all of his property to the community, including his land and house.

Casto refused to sign the document and was imprisoned together with Juan, who accompanied him to the meeting.

Valdez Guzman claimed that both men were held in a cell that was "unhygienic" and had no toilet. Casto was also allegedly taken out of the 30-hour confinement twice and forced to sign the document.

The men were released on March 21, but were told to leave the village within 18 hours. They are now temporarily sheltered in city of Huejutla de Reyes, with members of Pastor Valdez Guzman's congregation. 

According to the CSW, many local leaders in Mexico's Hidalgo state often attempt to force conformity to the majority religion of Roman Catholicism, and state officials rarely intervene to address violations of minority rights to religious freedom.

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