An Overlooked Controversy in California

The Babylon Bee has done it again. After the California governor’s blowout victory in the recall election, the Christian satirical site had a meme noting the large-scale exodus underway in California, with the headline, “Gavin Newsom Named U-Haul Salesperson Of The Year.”

But there’s a largely-overlooked religious controversy in California right now that is no laughing matter.

We have seen in recent decades the massive attempt to rewrite American history and to erase God from it. Whole books have been written on this subject, like Dr. James S. Robbins’ “Erasing America” or Jarrett Stepman’s “War on History.”

We have seen how heroes in America’s past, like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and even Abraham Lincoln, have been turned into virtual villains by the forces of political correctness.

And now the anti-Christian elites in California are engaging in a quiet war to dishonor the memory of a humble, Catholic priest who for all practical purposes founded California.

Much of early California was carved out in the second half of the 1700s by Father Junipero Serra (died 1784). He has been dubbed the “Apostle of California.”

Father Junipero Serra created a series of 21 Catholic missions, each of which would be accessible to the next by a one-day horseback ride.

Beginning with San Diego, these missions stretch northward to Sonoma, the final mission in the series. Sonoma was the mission just north of San Francisco, named after St. Francis of Assisi.

The best known of these missions is Los Angeles, i.e., “the angels”—technically its full name is “The Town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels of the River Porciúncula.” It’s worth noting that America’s second largest city is named after the mother (“Our Lady”) of Jesus.

These missions include San Juan Capistrano, San Jose (named after Mary’s husband, Joseph, the step-father of Jesus), San Gabriel, San Carlos, San Luis Obispo, Santa Clara, and Santa Barbara. To this day, Father Serra’s missions are, in effect, the backbone of the state of California.

They also include the Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo—best-known as Carmel-by-the-Sea. It’s in that particular mission’s church where Father Serra is buried. I have visited his grave.

It was in one of these missions that, for the first time ever, California wine was produced. The purpose of that was to celebrate Holy Communion. Even California’s state capital harkens back to the influence of Father Serra and company—Sacramento. As in the sacrament of Holy Communion.

But today, the politically correct folks who are bent on stripping America of any of its godly heritage have aimed their sites against Father Junipero Serra, whose statue graces Statuary Hall in the U. S. Capitol. As I recall, his is the only image there of someone holding up a cross.

Now Junipero Serra High School in San Diego seems poised to disown its namesake, but critics charge that the decision to change the name was made surreptitiously. In fact, the Thomas More Society is suing over this name change because they maintain it was done illegally.

The Society, a legal group which fights for religious liberty, writes: “The principal of Junipero Serra High School and the San Diego Unified School District Board of Trustees violated citizens’ rights when they voted to rename the school without giving the public sufficient notice of their intent to do so.”

Why the potential change? In effect, Father Serra is being blamed for abuses against the indigenous people that followed in the wake of his missionary work. This reminds me of people blaming the Pilgrims, who were peace-loving people who had a great relationship with the Indians, for abuses committed later by other European settlers.

Paul Jonna is a special counsel for the Thomas More Society in this case. He told me: “It’s not up to debate what kind of man this was. This man would wash the natives’ feet, yet he’s now been likened to conquistadors, who did bad things to the native population.”

Jonna says of the principal and her minions that they “have pandered to a false and historically inaccurate narrative and have demonstrated an unconstitutional animus towards this Catholic saint.”

But the San Diego high school is not the only controversy aimed at sullying Father Serra’s reputation.

Dr. William Donohue of the Catholic League, who calls Serra “the greatest missionary in U.S. history,” wants Gov. Newsom to veto a bill that would tear down a statue of Serra in Sacramento. Donohue writes: “The bill is not only based on bad history, it is a slanderous attack on the one man who actually did stand up for the rights of Indians at the time.”

It seems like the ongoing effort of historical revisionism—to tarnish American history and its heroes in service of political correctness—continues unabated.

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