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Statue of St. Junipero Serra in San Juan Capistrano, CaliforniaShutterstock

SAN DIEGO, California, July 27, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — A lawsuit is challenging the San Diego Unified School District’s decision to rename Junipero Serra High School. The school district had voted to remove Serra’s name from the institution, claiming the eighteenth-century saint and missionary to California was racist, persecuting the natives and forcing them to relinquish their culture and beliefs.

In turn, San Diego residents argued the school district was engaging in “cancel culture,” discriminating against Catholicism and ignoring the citizens who wanted Serra’s name to remain.

Serra founded nine missions in California, including the San Diego mission, which still stands today. Pope Francis canonized Serra in 2015 in Washington, D.C., making him the first saint to be canonized on American soil.

With the help of the Thomas More Society, lawfirm LiMandri& Jonna LLP brought the lawsuit against the San Diego Unified School District, noting that religion and religious figures are protected by the Constitution.

According to the San Diego Tribune, attorney Paul Jonna said that members of the school district have “pandered to a false and historically inaccurate narrative and have demonstrated an unconstitutional animus towards this Catholic saint.”

Jonna said the school district violated state and federal laws by convening in secret over the internet to vote on changing the school’s name. “The key legal issues here are the blatant violations of the Brown Act, which requires public notice of a vote to be taken, as well as violations of the California and Federal Due Process and Establishment Clauses.”

Attorney Charles LiMandri said, “This is another example of the ‘cancel culture’ mentality that radical leftist people in education are trying to force on an unwilling American public. Father Serra was a great defender of the indigenous people of California, and he deserves our best efforts to defend his legacy.”

Junipero Serra had been described as racist last summer amid Black Lives Matter protests and riots throughout California.

San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone said at the time, “St. Serra made heroic sacrifices to protect the indigenous people of California from their Spanish conquerors, especially the soldiers. Even with his infirmed leg which caused him such pain, he walked all the way to Mexico City to obtain special faculties of governance from the Viceroy of Spain in order to discipline the military who were abusing the Indians. And then he walked back to California.”

Nevertheless, several statues of the saint were vandalized.

Junipero Serra “was the embodiment of ‘a Church which goes forth,’ a Church which sets out to bring everywhere the reconciling tenderness of God,” Pope Francis said when he canonized him. The pontiff has also called the saint “one of the founding fathers of the United States, a saintly example of the Church’s universality and special patron of the Hispanic people of the country.”