Diocese can't be forced to change baptism records for trans-identified individuals: court

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A Catholic diocese doesn't have to change the name and sex registered on the baptismal records of a trans-identified individual, a Mexican appeals court has ruled. 

The final ruling from the 22nd Federal Circuit Court of Appeals in Mexico determined that churches and religious organizations have a right under the Mexican Constitution to manage affairs in accordance with their doctrines.

The Catholic Diocese of Querétaro was sued by a trans-identified individual who demanded that the diocese change the name and male sex registered on his baptismal records, a request that the church had denied. 

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The Christian legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom International supported the diocese throughout the lawsuit, which the claimant filed in 2021.

Tomás Henríquez, the director of advocacy for Latin America and the Caribbean for ADF International, praised the court for upholding the "constitutionally protected autonomy rights of the Catholic Church."  

"Both the Mexican constitution and international law are clear: churches have the right to manage their affairs according to the convictions of their faith. This is a prerequisite for religious freedom," Henríquez said in a statement

"As the battle against gender ideology continues, this case sets an important precedent for churches and religious organizations in Mexico, and it is our hope that Mexico will take real steps to improve its religious freedom standing. Moreover, this ruling protects the basic right of the church to safeguard the accuracy of its historical records, critical for the purpose of administering its sacraments." 

Initially, the Mexican National Institute for Data Protection, a federal agency responsible for adjudicating claims of data protection breaches, ruled in favor of the trans individual. The claimant, a man who identifies as a woman, argued that Mexico's data protection law required the diocese to change his records. The federal agency ordered the diocese to comply with the demand. 

In April, the Mexican Supreme Court, also known as the Suprema Corte de Justicia de la Nación, declined to rule directly on the case.

The Mexican federal appellate court later sided with the diocese's constitutional right to act in accordance with its doctrine without government interference, according to ADF International. The federal appellate court cited articles 24 and 130 of the Mexican constitution. 

"The appellate court further held that the federal personal data protection law was unconstitutional as applied because Congress had not adequately considered the right of autonomy for churches under the Mexican law of church and state separation, and had thus not included an exemption for record keeping for church affairs," ADF International stated. 

"The decision from the appellate court in this case sets an important precedent for upholding the religious freedom and autonomy rights of churches and religious organizations in Mexico."

In a May 14 interview with Catholic News Agency's Spanish partner, ACI Prensa, Henríquez said the Catholic Church has a right to refuse to make the change based on "the immutable doctrine of the Church regarding the constitution of the person as a man, as a woman, who has been created that way by God." 

The ADF International director said "baptismal records have no other functionality or objective than to allow the [Catholic] Church to keep reliable historical records of the administration of the sacraments."

According to Henríquez, Mexico's Supreme Court refused to take the case because it felt it had "already given sufficient guidelines within its jurisprudence to resolve the matter."

"With that, the appeals court ruling in favor of the church stands, based on arguments of autonomy of religious institutions," he said. 

Samantha Kamman is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: Follow her on Twitter: @Samantha_Kamman

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