Beginning of anticlericalism and persecution
In one form or another, anticlericalism has been a factor in Mexican politics since independence from Spain, which is attributable to the frequent change in government and those governments' eagerness to access wealth in the form of the property of the Church. Mexico was born after its independence as a confessional state. Its first constitution was enacted in 1824 and stated in the article 3 that the religion of the nation was and would perpetually be Roman Catholic-it also prohibited any other religion. After the Revolution of Ayutla, nearly all of the top figures in the government were Freemasons and fierce anticlericalists. In 1857 a Constitution was adopted which attacked the property rights and possessions of the Church. After a civil war and the dominance by the supporters of that Constitution under Benito Juárez, the supporters of tradition backed an ill-fated Mexican Empire supported by the French. When the Emperor Maximillian was deposed and killed, the country descended into a series of anti-clerical governments. After the rule of Porfirio Díaz who was relatively moderate in his stance toward the Church, an increasingly violent and extreme anticlericalism erupted. In 1917, a new Constitution was enacted, hostile to the Church and religion, which promulgated a draconian anti-clericalism of the sort seen in France during the Revolution. The new Mexican Constitution was hostile to Church as a consequence of the support given by the High Mexican Catholic Clergy to the dictatorship of Victoriano Huerta. The 1917 Constitution outlawed teaching by the Church, gave control over Church matters to the state, put all Church property at the disposal of the state, outlawed religious orders, outlawed foreign-born priests, gave states the power to limit or eliminate priests in their territory, deprived priests of the right to vote or hold office, prohibited Catholic organizations which advocated public policy, prohibited religious publications from commenting on public policy, prohibited clergy from religious celebrations and from wearing clerical garb outside of a church and deprived citizens of the right to a trial for violations of these provisions. One political scientist stated that the gist of the 1917 constitution was to "effectively outlaw the Roman Catholic Church and other religious denominations".
Another article of the Constitution emboldened Marxist and then Communist labor unions which subsequently incited even more anti-religious governments.
Recent President Vicente Fox stated "After 1917, Mexico was led by anti-Catholic Freemasons who tried to evoke the anticlerical spirit of popular indigenous President Benito Juarez of the 1880s. But the military dictators of the 1920s were a lot more savage than Juarez." Fox goes on to recount how priests were killed for trying to perform the sacraments, altars were desecrated by soldiers and freedom of religion outlawed by generals.