New York City Democratic Mayor Eric Adams' recent remarks on the separation of church and state and praise of religious liberty caught the attention of leading First Amendment organizations and drew the ire of the ACLU and other groups.
"Don’t tell me about no separation of church and state. State is the body, church is the heart," Adams, a Democrat, said during an interfaith breakfast last week. "You take the heart out of the body, the body dies. I can’t separate my belief because I’m an elected official.
"When we took prayers out of schools, guns came into schools," he added in a speech to over 300 faith leaders.
First Liberty Institute, a nonprofit focused on defending religious freedoms, sent the mayor a letter praising him for setting an example for protecting religious liberty.
"Too many for too long have claimed that the so-called ‘separation of church and state’ requires public officials to check their religion at the door of city hall," said Jeremy Dys, special counsel for litigation and communications for First Liberty.
"When Mayor Adams refused to shed one of the most central parts of who he is — his religious beliefs — while he is mayor, it is surprising but nonetheless encouraging. If our nation’s commitment to religious liberty means anything, it must at least mean that no American should be required to hide their religious beliefs while serving in office. We commend Mayor Adams for setting that much-needed example."
Conservative advocacy group Family Research Council also praised Adams' remarks.
"If we’re talking about his prayer comments, he simply knows the power of prayer and thinks that removing a daily prayer from school hasn’t helped us. I think he’s right, and I think a lot of Americans would agree," FRC official Arielle Del Turco told the New York Post.
However, Adams' remarks got flak from civil rights organizations, including the New York American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
The NYCLU quickly fired back at the mayor's statements, calling them "outlandish comments."
Executive Director Donna Lieberman said Adams is "playing a dangerous game by casually dismissing the well-established partition between religion and public policy."
Americans United for the Separation of Church and Sate called on Adams to "stop the spin."
"Not only is it simply untrue that prayer alone will end school shootings, but his words ignore the fact that students are free to voluntarily pray in public schools because of the separation of church and state," said the group's President and Chief Executive Rachel Laser.