CHERISHING OUR VALLEY 2013
Many Americans are unaware that before our Revolution, the Church of England (the Anglican Church) was the official or established religion of our colonies. Priests of the English church were paid by the crown, and not surprisingly for the most part they resisted our independence. Americans were required to support England's church and its properties through taxation. It is not surprising that our nation's political founders wrote into the Constitution that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion".
The Spanish empire also had its established religion, the Roman Catholic Church. The king and queen of Spain called themselves their "most Catholic majesties." Spanish missions, like those in Alta California, were as much factories to produce obedient Spanish subjects as to save their souls. The missions San Fernando Rey de España (Saint Ferdinand King of Spain) and San Gabriel were part of that system.
At the time when the heroic people of Mexico overthrew their Spanish masters, one in every four acres of land in Mexico were the property of the Catholic Church. (Some historians claim that half of the land of Mexico was owned by Spain's established church.) In 1833, the new Republic of Mexico secularized the California missions, removing them from the authority of Spanish bishop and religious orders under the control of Spain and made them into community parish churches. Church lands were turned over to ranchers and others loyal to the new Mexican Republic. For the Indians who provided free labor for the missions, working for the rancheros was little more than an a transfer of owners.