Monday, July 26, 2010

St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church, like mosque today, was opposed by Murfreesboro residents

The first Catholic person in the Americas to become a saint, Saint Rose of Lima, was born in the capital city of Peru. A church in nearby Murfreesboro bears her name. And like a local mosque that faces vocal opposition for a recently announced building project, the history of Saint Rose of Lima Catholic Church of Murfreesboro also reveals local opposition to one of its planned houses of worship, according to the Daily News-Journal:
A New York couple, Mr. and Mrs. Francis Hoffman, stopped in Murfreesboro on a train trip in 1925. During the layover, they searched in vain for a Catholic church and mass. "Some months later Bishop A. J. Smith in Nashville received a gift to build a chapel" in Murfreesboro. Mrs. Hoffman requested that the new place of worship be named for her patron saint, Saint Rose of Lima.
A lot on the northeast corner of University and Lytle was purchased for the new church from Helen C. Earthman on April 25, 1929, for $2,500.
This plan to construct the county's first Catholic Church was the target of a local KKK protest march.
The Daily News-Journal article quotes 93-year-old Murfreesboro historian C.B. Arnette, 93, who witnessed the march protesting the new building for the Saint Rose of Lima congregation.  Arnette said you could recognize marchers by their shoes: one marcher was a local physician, and another was a Church of Christ preacher.

What was the reason for the opposition to Catholics?  The Tennessean points out the history of the 20th century KKK as an organization created in opposition to (mostly Catholic) immigration, preaching "racism, anti-Catholicism, nativism (favoring of native inhabitants over immigrants) and anti-Semitism."  A commenter points out that Catholics were described as national security threats:
In the 1920s, Hiram Evans, the Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan rose to prominence with a populist, nativistic, and anti-intellectual message to the American public. Klan members identified the Irish and Italian members of Anarchists, IWW, and WFM organizations as national threats that sought to overthrow the government through force. The Klan’s job was to protect Americans from these corrosive elements. They labeled Individuals such as Carlo Tresca, Mother Jones, and Nicola Sacco as “bomb-throwing lunatics.” The Catholics also came under close scrutiny because the pope was a “monarchist” and the Catholics subverted the nation. The Catholic “monarchists” would never assimilate because their religious structure conflicted with the republican ideas of Protestants who had decentralized church hierarchies.
Construction of Saint Rose of Lima's new building continued anyway, and the building was dedicated just six months after the property was purchased.  The congregation of Saint Rose of Lima Catholic Church of Murfreesboro thrives to this day.

Modern parallels to Saint Rose of Lima history

In modern-day Murfreesboro, the announcement of the construction of a new mosque building, where Muslim faith would be practiced, has also faced opposition.  As reported locally and nationally - including by ABC News - much of the opposition to the mosque has come from local Christians and been in general opposition to Islam:
"We have a duty to investigate anyone under the banner of Islam," Allen Jackson, the pastor of World Outreach Church, said at the meeting.
Others were quoted by the Tennessean with similar remarks:
"Everybody knows they are trying to kill us." -Karen Harrell
"Islam is a system of government. Islam is a system of justice. … "I'm afraid we'll have a training facility in Rutherford County." -George Erdel
"It's an ideology. It's not a religion." -Bob Hayes
But some Christians and others, including Mike Williams of Smyrna (quoted in another Tennessean article), have gathered and spoken out in favor of the mosque's construction project:
[Mike] Williams, who attends All Saints Episcopal Church in Smyrna, said he believes "very strongly that all of us are the children of a God.
"We are entitled to an equal inheritance. In America, our inheritance is freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the color of skin. In short, the Constitution of the United States belongs to all of us."
Williams is one of a number of politicians who have sided with the Constitution on this controversy.  Another is Ben Leming:
I made a stand to protect the rights of every American, not just those that form the majority.  ... Unfortunately, there are many people that disagree strongly with or don't understand this basic American principle and how it should protect the rights of others. ... Right now they are lining up to deny other Americans their Constitutional rights and discredit our mission to put the people of Middle Tennessee first in Washington.
Words of wisdom for Christians and Muslims alike, as quoted by the Tennessean, came from MTSU professor Rabbi Rami Shapiro:
"I think people should listen very carefully to their clergy and what they teach. If they teach violence and hatred (of other religions), I think it is incumbent upon the parishioner to get up and walk out."


  1. Woww.......
    I wanted to cry realizing that the city that I grew up loving has such an extensive history of hatred and no sense of togetherness. Of course I know that not all people are this way, because I still reside here and I'm as far from this ignorance that my heart can take me!
    For me this hits twice as hard, because I began life attending St. Rose. Left and went to Christianity briefly and now I have been practicing Islam for 15 years.
    Now imagine me, a Muslim, throwing a city wide kickball tournament on August 28 for all people! God works with all of us that follow His lead

  2. Islam is a religion! Many Christian radicals want laws that legislate morality in accordance with what they believe despite the fact that our creator has granted us free will. I see great hypocracy and a fundemental lack of understanding in the teachings of Christ within the arguements presented by those who oppose the mosque.
    I encourage people to stop being led like sheep and find out for themselves. One could start by asking a Muslim who they think Jesus Christ is. Their answer will shock you.

  3. I see Tennessee hasn't changed a bit, since I last lived there 17 years ago.Thank you both for sharing your ideas and not continuing to fuel the hatred towards other humans.


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