New York City Mayor Eric Adams landed in critics’ crosshairs Tuesday after an emphatic address to an interfaith prayer breakfast Tuesday in which he said that he walks and talks with God.
Mr. Adams, 62, said church and state are not, in fact, separate and claimed the end of school prayer led to a rise in gun incidents at schools.
Earlier, mayoral advisor Ingrid Lewis-Martin told event attendees, “In government, many times, it is said that one has to separate church from state … We have an administration that doesn’t believe in that.”
Both comments drew immediate fire from the New York Civil Liberties Union and other advocacy groups, one of which claimed the Black chief executive was “promoting right-wing, Christian Nationalist talking points.”
The first-term mayor addressed about 300 guests at the event and said,“Don’t tell me about no separation of church and state. State is the body. Church is the heart. You take the heart out of the body, the body dies.”
He said, “When we took prayers out of schools, guns came into schools.”
Perhaps the mayor’s most controversial comment came when Mr. Adams said, “I can’t separate my belief because I’m an elected official. When I walk, I walk with God. When I talk, I talk with God. When I put policies in place, I put them in with a God-like approach to them. That’s who I am.”
Rachel Laser, president and CEO of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a District-based group, said the organization was “dismayed” by Mr. Adams’ remarks.
In a statement, she said, “Mayor Adams’ comments dismissing our country’s foundational principle of separation of church and state are shocking and dangerous. Our democracy, equality and rights all rely on America’s commitment to separate church and state.”
Ms. Laser said her group “is reaching out to the mayor’s office to offer our expertise and advice” on how Mr. Adams can “uphold … the separation of church and state.”
Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement the mayor cannot favor one religion over another.
“It is odd that Mayor Adams would need a refresher on the First Amendment,” she said. “After all, he has sworn to uphold the Constitution more than once, first as a police officer, later as a state representative, and then last year upon becoming mayor.”
Responding to a Washington Times reporter’s query, Mr. Adams’ press secretary Fabien Levy said the chief executive’s comments were clear to those in attendance.
“As the mayor said before an interfaith group comprised of hundreds of representatives from a multitude of religions, you can’t remove the heart from the body,” Mr. Levy said via email. “The policies we make as an administration are rooted in the mayor’s belief in the creator. The mayor personally believes all of our faiths would ensure we are humane to one another. While everyone in the room immediately understood what the mayor meant, it’s unfortunate that some have attempted to hijack the narrative in an effort to misrepresent the mayor’s comments.”