New York City Mayor Eric Adams on Sunday doubled down on remarks he made earlier in the week dismissing the idea of the separation of church and state.
Dana Bash, host of CNN’s “State of the Union,” said Adams’s earlier comments about the role of faith in governance “alarmed some people, even religious leaders who were in the room,” before promoting Adams for a response.
“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,” Adams said in response.
“Faith is who I am, and anyone who takes those words [is] stating 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,” the mayor added. “It could be if you are in a synagogue, a baptist church, a Buddhist temple—I’m in all of them, and that’s what was in my service.”
Adams made the comments in question at an interfaith dinner on Feb. 28, which quickly became the target of online backlash and protests outside of the Big Apple’s city hall.
“Don’t tell me about no separation of church and state,” said Adams on Tuesday. “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.”
Conservative figures such as Charlie Kirk and Benny Johnson endorsed the comments, calling them a “pro-God rant in deep-blue New York.”
In his Sunday interview, Adams clarified that he does not believe in a union between the church and the state institutionally, but that faith should be an integral part of governance.
“Government should not interfere with religion, religion should not interfere with government,” Adams said. “That can’t happen, and it should never happen.”
“But my faith is how I carry out the practices that I do and the policy, such as helping people who are homeless, such as making sure that we show compassion in what we do in our city,” he added.
Comments on Crime
In that same interview, Adams shared his thoughts on Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s failed attempt at reelection on Sunday, describing it as a “warning sign’ for the entire country.
Bash asked Adams if he was worried about his Democrat counterpart’s “pretty big loss” in her reelection bid, and his thoughts on its connection to Chicago’s high violent crime rate.
“To the contrary, I think it’s a warning sign for the country. I think, if anything, it is really stating that this is what I have been talking about,” Adam said. “America, we have to be safe.”
“I stated on the campaign trail, and in the city, public safety is a prerequisite to prosperity. Same as Chicago, like New York, and many of our big cities across America,” Adams said.
On March 1, Lightfoot became the first incumbent Chicago mayor to lose a reelection bid since 1983, a result widely seen as a fallout of Chicago’s soaring violent crime rates under Lightfoot’s governance.
The front-running candidate in that race, former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas who ran with a tough-on-crime message, nearly doubled Lightfoot in the number of votes received, according to results reported by The New York Times.
From January 2019 to the end of 2022, Chicago’s murder rate increased by 39 percent, theft by 37 percent, robbery by 13 percent, motor vehicle theft by 139 percent, and shooting by 32 percent, according to a report by the Chicago Police Department. Lori Lightfoot assumed office on May 2019.
But Chicago’s numbers are only a snapshot of a much bigger blue-cities problem, according to a November 2022 report by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. It cited data from the first half of 2022 showing that 27 out of 30 cities with the highest murder rate in the country had Democrat mayors, including New York. Two cities had a Republican mayor and one city had an independent.
In Sunday’s interview, Adams touted the success of his subway safety plan, which was a focus of his crime reduction efforts, along with reducing theft.
There were 438 homicides in New York City in 2022, about a 10 percent drop from 2021, according to New York Police Department (NYPD) data.
However, the data shows an increase of 23 percent in what the city defines as “major felony offenses,” which include rape, robbery felony assault, burglary, theft, and motor vehicle theft.