Statue of controversial missionary Junipero Serra could get booted from U.S. Capitol

Feb 12, 2015

Photo courtesy of Architect of the Capitol

By Kevin Eckstrom

Junipero Serra, the 18th-century Franciscan missionary who’s set to be declared a saint later this year despite protests from Native American groups, could lose his place of honor in the U.S. Capitol if a California lawmaker has his way.

State Sen. Ricardo Lara, an openly gay Los Angeles Democrat, wants to replace a bronze statue of Serra with a monument honoring the late Sally Ride, the nation’s first female astronaut. Lara said Ride would become “the first member of the LGBT community” to be honored in Statuary Hall.

Each state is allowed two statues to represent local heroes; California’s other statue is of former President Ronald Reagan, who joined the collection in 2009, replacing a monument to itinerant preacher Thomas Starr King. The King and Serra statues were added in 1931.

“Dr. Sally Ride is a California native, American hero and stratospheric trailblazer who devoted her life to pushing the limits of space and inspiring young girls to succeed in math and science careers,” Lara said in a statement. “She is the embodiment of the American dream.”

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10 comments on “Statue of controversial missionary Junipero Serra could get booted from U.S. Capitol

  • Replacing the statue of someone who made a living pretending to know what’s in the sky with someone who actually went to find out …. now there’s a thought.

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  • Native Americans criticize Serra’s brutal treatment of their ancestors and associate him with the suppression of their culture. I would say that that excludes him. A national hero should not be controversial, at least not a villain to a significant segment. All he did was found missions, con people out of land and proselytise Christianity. Further he promotes a single religion. None of these actions are in the least heroic.

    I think Sally Ride is a great choice. She will inspire more than other possibilities. Others:
    Dave Brubek
    Robert Frost
    Jerry Garcia
    Earl Warren
    Donald Duck
    Richard Nixon (people might then get the idea Ronald is there in a Rogue’s gallery)

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  • I’m all for replacing Junipero Serra. But Sally Ride wouldn’t be my first choice. I’m sorry but she is the worst example of affirmative action. She wasn’t doing any experiments, at least none that an actual scientist couldn’t have done a million times better. It was a straight BS PR move “lets put a lady teacher in space” IMO it was an insane waste of resources that could have been spent doing actual science instead of to “inspire” young women. Get someone who actually DID something real not someone chosen as a PR stunt. Off the top of my head I would say Joan Baez would be a great choice. Talented, principled, she played a major role in the civil rights movement when it was still dangerous to do so. Given time I”m sure I could think up other names but Ride leaves me under whelmed.

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  • Sally Ride: Astronaut, scientist, an inspiration to current generations of young women, a hero for our times.

    Farm the missionary miscreant out to the open courtyard of a Catholic church and let the pigeons have at him.

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  • Chuckle, as an unabashed Joan Baez fan, (and Bob Dylan,) and without diminishing her role, along with others, in turning American opinion against the war in Vietnam, I was wondering about her as a choice, too.

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