Gay rights and the church clash

The fact that the governor of the ultra conservative state of Jalisco used public funds to bring Richard Cohen, an author and conversion therapist who believes gays can be turned straight hit the news recently in Mexico causing a political uproar.

In a public event co-funded by the government of Jalisco and the Guadalajara Catholic Archdiocese, Cohen told parents that a cure for their children existed and they could turn straight because there were no genetic reasons for being gay.

News of the event, called “On the Road to Chastity”, resonated throughout Mexico after a complaint by Raúl Vargas, a state congressman for Jalisco for the leftist Partido de la Revolución Democrática, who learned about this use of public funds when he found a poster advertising the meeting with the logotype of the general administrative office for the state government. The three day public event held in late November was co funded by the state Catholic Archdiocese.

The Jalisco State Commission on Human Rights said they would investigate the charges, as there was information that at the meeting the organisers “tried to picture homosexuality as an illness.”

Cohen of the International Healing Foundation, a nonprofit and tax-exempt organisation founded by him in 1990 to treat same-sex attraction told participants that he was raped as a child and became gay but later turned straight and is now married and has three children.

The issue of gay rights is a sensitive one in Jalisco. Emilio González Márquez, the Governor of Jalisco, and Cardinal Juan Sandoval Iñiguez, the Archbishop of Guadalajara, have both been outspokenly opposed to gay weddings in Mexico. González Márquez said he felt a little nauseous thinking about gay weddings, while the Archbishop engaged in a spat with Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard.

State-Church relations are tender in Mexico. Although the country has the world’s second largest Roman Catholic population, and the Church has a strong following in all social and family issues, there is resistance to the church becoming involved in politics.  In fact the 1917 Constitution stripped the Church of many powers and forbade Church members from delving into politics—through the famous Article 130.  A bloody war erupted in the 1920s because of Church-State differences which caused the deaths of . The worst persecution of the church took place under President Plutarco Elias Calles, under whom the Cristero, or Christian war, erupted, raging from 1926 and 1934.  By the end of the war, there were no priests in 17 states. It wasn’t until 1991 that President Salinas proposed the removal of most of the anticlerical provisions from the constitution, a move which passed the legislature in 1992.

Most of the progressive agenda favoring gay marriages, abortion and the adoption of children by gays has been promoted in Mexico City, which has been ruled by the leftists Partido Revolucionario Democratico (PRD).

But in Jalisco and other states located in the area known as El Bajio, religious fervour remains the same as three decades ago. They even have a tequila called Cristeros, in memory of the Christian fighters to upheld the rights of the church in the 1930s.