Mayor Adams dismissed the notion that there should be a separation between church and state in U.S. society on Tuesday, drawing ire from fellow Democrats who contended that line of argument runs counter to long-held American values.
Adams, who’s Christian, has over the course of his political career spoken extensively about how important he believes faith is in civic life and said as recently as last February that “God” told him to become mayor.
But his comments Tuesday morning, delivered at an interfaith breakfast at the New York Public Library’s central branch in Manhattan, took it a step further.
The tone was set by Ingrid Lewis-Martin, Adams’ chief adviser, who introduced him at the event by declaring that the mayor’s administration “does not believe” in the concept that one must “separate church from state.”
“Ingrid was so right,” Adams said once he took the stage. “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. I can’t separate my beliefs because I’m an elected official.”
He continued: “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.”
Adams’ remarks put him at odds with a key clause of the U.S. Constitution. The establishment clause of the First Amendment holds that the U.S. shall make no laws “respecting an establishment of religion,” a principle derived from the teachings of Thomas Jefferson, who wrote that there must be “a wall of separation between Church and State” in the U.S.
A spokesman for Adams said the mayor was only voicing his personal belief in Tuesday’s remarks, and that he isn’t pushing for upending any U.S. laws or principles.
Still, some of Adams’ progressive critics were troubled by his rhetoric.
“The Democratic Party should not normalize this kind of talk. I hope we see it denounced widely,” Chris Sosa, a spokesman for Upper East Side Progressives, wrote on Twitter.
Naomi Paiss, vice president of a group called Americans United for Separation of Church and State, echoed Sosa’s sentiment.
“So much for blue-city mayors upholding a fundamental principle of American society,” Paiss tweeted.
While introducing him, Lewis-Martin also praised Adams as “one of the chosen” — and the mayor embraced that suggestion, too.
“Today, we proclaim that this city, New York City, is a place where the mayor of New York is a servant of God,” Adams told the breakfast crowd.
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