In the late 1960s and early 1970s, radical Latina/o activists across the United States pioneered a bold new strategy to bring visibility to their often-localized justice struggles: the occupation of churches. The targets ranged from flourishing newly built cathedrals to crumbling neighborhood chapels, but in each case, the occupiers seized the hallowed edifices to gain the moral high ground in their battles for self-determination. Social movement scholars have frequently gestured to such acts alongside similar movimiento takeovers of welfare offices and other government buildings, or in other periods, of interstate highways or sit-down strikes. Many texts list the church occupations on laundry lists of direct-action protests, on a continuum somewhere between orderly marches and full-scale rebellions.

Yet as Felipe Hinojosa argues, neither historians nor religious studies scholars have taken a hard look at how seizing a church proved qualitatively different from other forms of more traditional, secular activism. Hinojosa, the...

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