Amid calls from California activists to drop vandalism charges against five assailants who destroyed a statue of St. Junipero Serra last year, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco warned that doing so would set a dangerous precedent.

“If a crime caught on videotape and witnessed by the police were not to have been prosecuted, it would have sent a profoundly disturbing message to the hundreds of thousands of people of faith in Marin County: churches, synagogues, mosques and temples are at the mercy of small mobs,” Cordileone said in a Feb. 19 statement.

“Even more, this would set an extremely troubling precedent in that no one could be secure that those who perpetrate crimes against them will be prosecuted for their wrongdoing.”

On Oct. 12, 2020 — Indigenous Peoples Day in California — a group of activists defaced and pulled down a statue of St. Junipero Serra on private property at Mission San Rafael Arcángel in San Rafael, about 20 miles north of San Francisco.

Of the group that destroyed the statue, police arrested and recommended charges for six individuals. District Attorney Lori Frugoli subsequently charged five of those people, all women, with felony vandalism.

Cordileone performed an exorcism at the site of the statue Oct. 17, calling the statue’s destruction an act of blasphemy.

Cordileone had in late October 2020 asked the Marin County district attorney to prosecute those arrested after the riot at the mission church to the “full extent of the law.” He also seconded the San Rafael Police Department’s request that six individuals be charged with vandalism in a house of worship, a hate crime.

“If the perpetrators of this crime are not brought to justice, small mobs will be able to decide what religious symbols all people of faith may display on their own property to further their faith, and they will continue to inflict considerable spiritual suffering on ordinary Catholic people who would see our sacred spaces as unprotected by law,” he wrote to Frugoli at the time.

Full story at Catholic News Agency.