Adams denounces separation of church and state, endorses prayer in schools

New York City Mayor Eric Adams host the annual Interfaith Breakfast at the New York Public Library on Tuesday, February 28, 2023.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams host the annual Interfaith Breakfast at the New York Public Library on Tuesday, February 28, 2023. Photo credit Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

NEW YORK (1010 WINS) — Mayor Eric Adams denounced the separation of church and state and endorsed prayer in schools during a speech at an interfaith breakfast on Tuesday.

“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,” said Adams. “When we took prayers out of schools, guns came into schools,” he said at another point in the speech.

The separation of church and state is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” reads the first clause of the bill of rights.

The mayor’s statements drew backlash from First Amendment advocates.

“We are a nation and a city of many faiths and no faith. In order for our government to truly represent us, it must not favor any belief over another, including non-belief,” said New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman.

“It is odd that Mayor Adams would need a refresher on the First Amendment. 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,” she continued. “The very opening passage of the Bill of Rights makes clear that church and state must be separate.”

A spokesperson for the mayor’s office said his words were being misconstrued, and that his comments were limited to addressing how his faith guides his decision.

“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,” said the spokesperson. “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,” he added.

Not everyone in the room shared that interpretation of Adams’ comments.

“I was there today at the Mayor's Interfaith Breakfast. His attack on separation between state and church were — for the lack of a better term — unhinged and dangerous,” wrote Rabbi Abby Stein on Twitter. “Quite a lot of us, especially progressive clergy, were visibly and vocally angry. This has to stop.”

Featured Image Photo Credit: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office