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Rodriguez: Religious history is repeating


Helena Rodriguez

Fifteen years ago when Ruben Quezada started writing about “Cristiada,” the Cristero War in Mexico, a little known event which happened in the late 1920s, people said, “That would never happen in the U.S.”

“Well, it is happening here,” Quezada said recently when I heard him speak at the Knights of Columbus State Convention in Hobbs. “When I first read the story of Cristeros, it was like America today.”

Quezada is the author of a book-turned-movie, “For Greater Glory,” which played at a limited number of theaters in 2012. I saw the movie in Odessa, Texas. “For Greater Glory ,” starring Peter O'Toole, Andy Garcia and Eva Longoria, chronicles the Cristero War, a war by the people of Mexico against an atheistic Mexican government.

This sounds hauntingly familiar today.

We are seeing unnecessary attacks on religious freedom. Quoting scriptures can get you accused of hate crimes. Refusing to participate in lifestyles which violate your conscience can land you in court, sued for millions of dollars, as was the case of a wedding cake baker. For the Little Sisters of the Poor nuns, their fight to stop the government from forcing them to violate their conscience by paying for birth control and abortions is in the Supreme Court.

Saying men don't belong in women's bathrooms can get you fired from ESPN. It's not just about giving freedom of choice to live as you choose to certain segments of our population anymore. It's about villainizing anyone who disagrees with it. It's about permitting the insecurities of one group to rip away the freedoms of another.

After 90,000 people died, the Cristeros, the Mexican government, retreated following a three-year war which became an embarrassment for them. Hence, the Mexican government forbade anybody to write about or show images of this for decades.

The anti-cleric laws were only sporadically enforced until Calles was elected in 1924. Under Calles Law, convents, monasteries and religious schools were closed. The government seized church property. If a priest criticized the government, he was imprisoned. Priests could not wear clerical garb.

It hasn't come to those extremes here, but warning signs are there.

As Quezada spoke, his tone was hopeful, but cautionary.

“When John Paul II came to America, he said, 'The challenge facing you is to increase people's awareness of the importance for society of religious freedom; to defend that freedom against those who would take religion out of the public domain and establish secularism as America's official faith.'”

Cardinal Timothy Dolan once wrote, “When the government tampers with a freedom so fundamental (religious freedom), one should shudder to see what lies ahead.”

Quezada finished with the words of many martyred-turned-saints of the Cristero war, a slogan made famous in his “For Greater Glory” movie: “Viva Cristo Rey!”

Helena Rodriguez is a Portales native. Contact her at:

[email protected]


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