I recently wrote a piece for the National Catholic Register on the angry attacks on memorials to St. Junipero Serra throughout California, from San Francisco down the coast to Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles, and more.
St. Junipero was a pioneer of California, a founding father. To rip him down throughout the state requires considerable effort, but his relentless detractors are eager to devote time and energy to the cause. This is a secular crusade to undermine the man who evangelized California, and who now is being characterized as nothing short of a genocidal racist.
Whether tearing down the statue with a noose and chains in San Francisco or spray-painting it red and sawing it apart at the neck in Santa Barbara, they are literally out for the saint’s head throughout California.
Since I published that article not even four weeks ago, the situation has only gotten worse. Not a statue of St. Junipero seems to be safe in the Golden State. In Sacramento on the Fourth of July weekend, in a display downright chilling to watch, a fuming mob blowtorched the face of a Serra statue, spray-painted it, pulled it down, jumped on it and hammered it, all the while chanting and cursing in the dark of the night in a disturbingly pagan-esque scene.
Which statue of the Father of California is next on the chopping block? Are there any left?
Well, the latest example comes from the town of Solvang, not far from Santa Barbara and Ventura. The very next day after the Ventura City Council voted 6-0 to take down statues of the Spanish missionary from both inside and outside City Hall, emboldened activists targeted the St. Junipero statue from the Santa Ines Mission in Solvang.
A petition presented to Solvang Mayor Ryan Toussaint calls for the removal of the statue of “a man who spent the majority of his life kidnapping, enslaving and stripping away the culture of indigenous peoples.” The charges leveled at St. Junipero in the petition are unbelievable. It claims of this alleged kidnapper-enslaver saint: “Throughout his life he spread pain, misery and disease to the point where it has been discovered that more indigenous people died under him than were born. We as a community need to say we acknowledge this little known history and not pay homage to this man causing further confusion and pain. We want the statue removed as keeping it standing shows reverence and respect for someone who murdered and enslaved so many.”
This is an absurd distortion of the historical record. It’s what Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez had in mind when he said that “those attacking St Junípero’s good name and vandalizing his memorials do not know his true character or the actual historical record.”