Democratic New York City Mayor Eric Adams was on to something when he argued at a Manhattan prayer breakfast Tuesday that you can’t remove God from society, and especially our schools, and not expect social ills and violence to increase.
Adams argued that if people want to build a world that’s better for the youth, “It means instilling in them some level of faith and belief.” (25 secs).
“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,” the mayor contended.
“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.
NYC Mayor Eric Adams: “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.”
Do you agree with the mayor? pic.twitter.com/Fr5EzmDHzM
— Human Events (@HumanEvents) March 1, 2023
“When we took prayers out of schools, guns came into schools,” he said.
NYC Mayor Eric Adams: “When we took prayers out of schools, guns came into schools … Don’t tell me about no separation of church and state…you take the heart out of the body, the body dies.”
Strange to agree with Mayor Adams, but here we are. pic.twitter.com/FWbvwOX18K
— Charlie Kirk (@charliekirk11) February 28, 2023
The fact that the ACLU of New York jumped all over his remarks tells you all your need to know.
“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,” NYCLU executive director Donna Lieberman said in a Tuesday statement.
“The very opening passage of the Bill of Rights makes clear that church and state must be separate,” she further asserted.
Well, Lieberman is actually wrong.
The phrase “separation of church and state” is not found in the Bill of Rights, nor anywhere else in the Constitution.
It comes from an 1801 letter President Thomas Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Baptists Association of Connecticut. The group had written the recently sworn-in president to express concern that the fledgling federal government might interfere with the practice of its faith or grant special favors to certain religious sects.
Jefferson responded, quoting from the First Amendment: “I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.”
What Jefferson did not convey is that religious faith could not inform public policies.
The entire Declaration of Independence, justifying the American colonies’ rupture with the British Empire, was grounded in the belief in God-given, unalienable individual rights that no government could rightfully infringe upon, including the rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Jefferson’s belief in the free exercise of religion, as expressed in a Virginia bill he wrote on the subject in 1777, was based on the notion “that Almighty God hath created the mind free.”
And as to matter of religious practice, “the plan of the holy author of our religion, who being lord both of body and mind … chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do, but to extend it by its influence on reason alone.”
So governments should not dictate what religion individuals practice, but the nation’s most fundamental laws are based on the belief that “all men are created equal” and should be treated equally under the law. Not all governments in the world now, nor certainly throughout history, including American history, saw it that way.
These ideals have to be taught and fought for, along with the underlying foundation of why they are true: There is a just God who governs the affairs of this world, who created divine laws. That’s what the Declaration of Independence says, and the Founders sought to codify in the Constitution the “blessings of liberty” that come from these beliefs.
James Madison, the father of the Constitution and drafter of the Bill of Rights, wrote in his 1785 essay “Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments” concerning religious liberty, “Before any man can be considered as a member of Civil Society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governour of the Universe,” in other words God.
The American experiment in liberty is informed by this faith.
By contrast, the view that informs totalitarian states is that government possesses all power: No God, no God-given rights, no freedom of conscience.
So Mayor Adams is right. Faith in God must be instilled in our youth. It is the foundation for liberty and respecting ourselves and others.
To the extent, we’ve left this bedrock, society’s ills have increased.
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