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Mexican political party wants religious items banned in government offices

Angered by an official who hung a crucifix in his office and invited employees to a Mass in a government building, Mexico's largest leftist party filed a complaint on Thursday and announced a push to ban religious images from government offices.

The moves threaten to re-ignite debate on the separation of church and state in a country where small Catholic shrines have long been tolerated in public markets, as well as police and fire stations - but tensions remain from a bloody uprising by Roman Catholic rebels in the 1920s.

The debate has sharpened since President Vicente Fox, an outspoken Catholic, took office in December. Members of Mr Fox's conservative National Action Party were also swept into office in several Mexico City boroughs.

One of those borough presidents, Jose Espina, hung the crucifix on the wall of his private office, calling it "a strictly personal affair."

But the leftist Democratic Revolution Party said the crucifix - and a letter sent out on official stationery inviting government employees to a Mother's Day Mass at borough offices - violated articles of Mexico's Constitution that mandate a separation of church and state.

The constitution defines the Mexican government as "nonreligious" and says officials "cannot establish any kind of preference or privilege for or against any particular religious group."

Unlike previous presidents who did not attend church in public and maintained a strict stance against mixing religion and government, Mr Fox waved a religious banner during his campaign and regularly attends Mass. LINKS
Sitio di Vicente Fox