New York City Mayor Eric Adams defended his comments from a week earlier in which he dismissed the separation of church and state, a principle critical to the founding of America.
On Feb. 28, the Democratic mayor told those attending his annual interfaith breakfast that he “can’t separate” his Christian beliefs from his government duties.
“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 told religious leaders at the event held at the main branch of the New York Public Library.
“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,” he said, later adding that “when we took prayers out of schools, guns came into schools.”
The remarks received applause from attendees, but video of Adams’ words drew backlash from critics who said the mayor was not upholding the U.S. Constitution, which calls for the separation of religion from government under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
On Sunday, Adams defended his comments by saying he is driven by his faith but that he would not force others to do the same.
“Well, listen, let’s be clear on something. The last words I said after I was sworn in is ‘so help me God.’ On our dollar bill, we have ‘In God we trust.’ Every president touched a religious book when they were sworn in, except for three,” the mayor told Dana Bash on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“Faith is who I am, and anyone who takes those words as stated that I’m going to try to compel people to follow my religion, no. I’m a child of God, I believe that wholly. I’m going to follow the law. I’m not going to compel people who believe in whatever faith. It could be if you’re in a synagogue, a Baptist church, a Buddhist temple, I’m in all of them. And that’s what was in my service.”
But when Bash pressed him on whether he believes in the separation of church and state, Adams gave an answer filled with contradictions.
“No, what I believe is that you cannot separate your faith. Government should not interfere with religion, and religion should not interfere with government. But I believe my faith … pushes me forward on how I govern and the things that I do,” Adams said.
“But one of the fundamentals of the Constitution is a separation of church and state when it comes to governing. When I just asked you that, you said no. That’s going to alarm some people,” Bash said.
“No. But this is what I’m saying. I want to be very clear on this, so it won’t be distorted,” the mayor responded. “Government should not interfere with religion, religion should not interfere with government. That can’t happen. And it should never happen. But my faith is how I carry out the practices that I do and the policies, such as helping people who are homeless, such as making sure that we show compassion in what we do in our city.”