N.J. Town Removes Devotional Shrine From Public Land

Saying he was motivated to defend the separation of church and state, a New Jersey mayor ordered the removal of a religious shrine from state-owned land.

Newly-elected Passaic Mayor Hector Lora called for the 14-year-old shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe to be dismantled because it was a religious display on public property. Mayordomia Guadalupe, the group caring for the shrine, was stringing electrical lines for security cameras on the site and collecting money for its upkeep, reported the Bergen County Record.

“I can’t allow any religious group to occupy public land permanently and collect money,” Lora told the newspaper. “I’m standing for the law.”

The shrine grew after two boys were clearing brush in 2003 and one of them claimed to see the Virgin Mary’s image in a tree stump. Word of the vision, which some deemed a miracle, soon spread through Passaic’s large Mexican community.

Mayordomia Guadalupe is seeking a new home for the shrine, but local Catholic churches have been advised not to take it. The bishop of the Diocese of Paterson sent a letter to parishes advising them not to accept the icon because it is not recognized or sanctioned by church officials.

Passaic officials had given the shrine’s caretakers six months to find it a new home, but none had been found when the deadline arrived on Aug. 15. A member of Mayordomia Guadalupe told the newspaper they still hope to be able to place it on private property.