Mexico's Senate has approved a constitutional reform that guarantees people the right to celebrate religious events in public as long as they don't engage in electoral politics.
Senators voted 72-35 Wednesday for the change that critics say could allow religion into public schools and public affairs.
At least 16 of Mexico's 31 state legislatures must still approve the reform.
The move came three days after Pope Benedict XVI ended his visit to Mexico.
Public religious observance is a sensitive issue in Mexico, where harsh anti-clerical laws sparked an uprising by Roman Catholics against the secular government in the 1920s.
Mexico eliminated some restrictions on public religious practices in the 1990s, but many remain.