NUEVA JERUSALEN, Mexico – Mexican authorities were unable Monday to overcome the resistance of an apocalyptic religious sect in western Mexico that has refused to allow public school teachers to hold classes in their town of Nueva Jerusalen, or New Jerusalem.
Lines of sect followers in brightly-colored robes lined up at the gated entrance to the town to face down dozens of federal and state police sent in Monday after an apparent compromise plan to set up schools outside the town broke down.
School was supposed to start earlier this month, but adherents of the quasi-Catholic sect burned and razed public schools in July because the school uniforms didn't conform to the sect's ban on modern dress and customs.
Women in New Jerusalem must wear colored robes depending on their status, and modern music, dance, sports and entertainment are all prohibited.
Authorities in the western state of Michoacan had pledged to have the schools back in service by Monday, but no classes were held because conservative members of the sect won't allow classes inside the temple-and-housing complex, and reformists — who want their kids to go to school — won't accept a proposed compromise to hold classes in neighboring towns.
Federal police commander Miguel Guerrero said talks continued Monday with both sect traditionalists and reformists.
"We are simply discussing the community's situation," Guerrero said after the talks.
Under Mexican law, grade school education is compulsory. The community practices a form of Latin Mass that is not recognized by the Roman Catholic Church. The sect believes the town will be the only place saved in an impending apocalypse, which it predicts but no longer sets a date for.