Historic downtown San Jose church hit with Satanic graffiti
Photo courtesy of Team San Jose.

A historic Catholic Church in the heart of downtown San Jose was vandalized Sunday morning, hours before congregants gathered to participate in Sunday mass.

Satanic and anti-semitic graffiti spray were sprawled against the church’s outside walls, alongside taunting drawings of a ghoulishly painted smile below two windows and a two-toned colored pentagram.

Church officials from the Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph confirmed on Tuesday that they are working with police, who are investigating the incident.

“The Diocese of San Jose is aware of the incident and is working with San Jose police to apprehend the culprits,” said spokesperson Liz Sullivan in a statement.

The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Joseph — a religious flagship in Santa Clara County — has been home to the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Jose for more than a hundred years. The church is listed as a historic landmark in California and also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Hundreds of parishioners across the county flood the church’s halls every Sunday, including Councilmember Raul Peralez’s mother who serves as an Eucharistic Minister.

Peralez, who represents the downtown district that includes the cathedral, said this is the first time he’s seen the church vandalized in more than 10 years since his mother started serving there. But he’s not surprised, he said, given the national political climate.

“I think this is certainly rare for the church itself and we’ve certainly seen it happening, unfortunately, throughout our entire country,” added Peralez. “Is it a Satanic group? Is it some youth that maybe weren’t even affiliated with the church or anything to do with Satanism, they just wanted to vandalize? I don’t know. But I think, without a doubt, everybody has to be able to believe that the national rhetoric that’s going on throughout our entire country is not helping at all.”

Peralez drove by the church Monday night, noting that the graffiti marks were painted over in a “slightly different” color. Church officials did not confirm when the marks were covered up. By Tuesday morning, the markings were entirely painted over.

San Jose Police Department statistics show that while hate crimes have fluctuated in recent years, most are attributed to race and religion. Still, there was a significant drop in religiously motivated hate crimes in San Jose in the last year — from 13 in 2017 to 5 in 2018. Police officials have not said if the vandalism at the cathedral is being investigated as a hate crime.

Peralez added that targeted attacks on an “individual, entity, organization, or religion” for a set of beliefs is alarming and provokes fear among the community. Whether it’s a vandalism attack on a religious organization or even living in fear of going out to a public place because of a potential mass shooting, Peralez said hate crimes are on the rise.

Less than two weeks ago, a group of Silicon Valley lawmakers joined forces to unveil proposals to address hate crimes on both city and county levels, including establishing a Hate Crimes Task Force.

“These are hate crimes against people for just who they are. There’s nothing that is bringing it on besides somebody else’s hate,” said Peralez. “And so yes, I would say they’re absolutely scary. And the reality is that I think they are on the rise throughout our entire country.”

Contact Nadia Lopez at nadia@sanjosespotlight.com or follow @n_llopez on Twitter.

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