RELIGION

Mayor orders religious shrine removed from state land

A religious shrine that has served as a focal point for Hispanic residents of a New Jersey city has been removed after occupying ground on state-owned land for 14 years.

Workers took down the shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe in Passaic on Wednesday. It consisted of a wooden log enclosed in a glass case, surrounded by statues, candles and flowers. It came together over the years after a Hispanic teenager claimed to have seen the face of the Virgin Mary in the stump.

"It gives us hope," Esteban Dominguez said of the shrine as she was watching workers dismantle it. "And everybody lives for hope."

The shrine was on property along Route 21 that is owned by the state Transportation Department.

Mayor Hector Lora tells The Record he ordered the shrine removed because of separation-of-church-and-state issues.

Lora said the group that maintained the shrine — Mayordomia Guadalupe — began to collect money at the site and ran electrical lines for security lighting. He said the city had tried unsuccessfully for months to relocate it and its removal should not come as a surprise.

"All of those suggestions were rejected," he said.

Mayordomia Guadalupe has spoken to several churches and private properties in hopes of finding a place for the shrine.

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This story has been corrected to show Hector Lora is the mayor of Passaic, not Paterson.

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Information from: The Record (Woodland Park, N.J.), http://www.northjersey.com