Mexico won't rule soon on reforms

Mexico City, Mexico - A government official has ruled out the immediate approval of constitutional reforms that would allow Mexico's Roman Catholic Church to get involved in politics.

Florencio Salazar, deputy secretary of religious affairs for the Interior Department, said Wednesday that the government is too busy to consider a proposal by the Archdiocese of Mexico to give the clergy "total" freedom of expression in political affairs and to let public schools offer religious education.

"We do not see any possibility for this issue being dealt with right now," Salazar said.

He did not say when the government would rule on the reform.

Salazar's comments are the first official reaction to the proposal by the conservative government, which is often allied with the church.

Mexican law forbids clerics from "forming associations for political ends" and bars them from partisan politics or holding political meetings at churches. It also outlaws religious teachings at public schools.

The government has kept the church on the political sidelines for the last century, fearing a return to the days when priests controlled much of the nation's public life.

But the debate over the church's role was renewed this spring when several priests spoke out publicly against Mexico City's legalization of abortion in the first trimester. The church mobilized thousands against the measure.