In 1867 the Benito Juárez government prohibited the teaching of Christian doctrine in public schools. The ensuing debate over religion and education became part of Mexico's Kulturkampf. This article briefly surveys this debate but focuses on whether the same tensions that animated national discourses around education were felt (and acted upon) locally. The article analyzes detailed responses submitted by priests to an 1885 archiepiscopal questionnaire on schooling in their parishes. Although some priests reported vehement opposition to teaching doctrine on the part of municipal authorities, most priests were able to fashion alliances with teachers that permitted doctrine to be taught in almost two-thirds of the public schools. With these alliances in place, the significant increase in the number of schools after 1867 meant that all but the students in the most rabidly anti-Catholic schools were exposed to Christian doctrine more effectively after the supposedly de-Catholicizing school reforms than before.

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