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NYC Mayor de Blasio: Protests essential, but not religion

On Wednesday, Ed Mechmann, director of public policy for the Archdiocese of New York, said the mayor’s policy shows that religious liberty is now considered a low priority in the city.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, center, bows his head in prayer during an interfaith Thanksgiving prayer service Nov. 26, 2019, at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 4, 2020 / 03:32 pm (CNA).- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday that ongoing protests in the city merit exceptions to coronavirus regulations, while religious services do not. The mayor’s remarks have drawn criticism from New York’s archdiocese.

“When you see a nation, an entire nation simultaneously grappling with an extraordinary crisis seeded in 400 years of American racism, I’m sorry, that is not the same question as the understandably aggrieved store owner or the devout religious person who wants to go back to services,” de Blasio said at a June 2 press conference, while defending his policy of allowing mass protests while continuing to restrict religious gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic.

On Wednesday, Ed Mechmann, director of public policy for the Archdiocese of New York, said the mayor’s policy shows that religious liberty is now considered a low priority in the city.

“It is clear that in the eyes of our government officials, the politically preferred viewpoint of anti-racism is favored and allowed, while the unpopular one of religious worship is belittled and denigrated,” Mechmann wrote on the archdiocesan website June 3.

With the differing standards of the city for protests and religious gatherings, Mechmann said, “we have once again been given proof that religious liberty is a second-class right.”

New York has been under a strict stay-at-home order starting March 22, and it is only in the early stages of reopening public spaces.

According to the state’s public health department, the city will not enter “phase one” of reopening until June 8. New Yorkers are being instructed to “wear a mask and maintain 6 feet distance in public.”

Meanwhile, protesters have gathered nightly by the thousands across the city to demonstrate against racism and police brutality following the May 25 death of George Floyd in police custody.

Mechmann praised peaceful protests in the city, but noted that Americans also have a right to the free exercise of religion. To honor one right while ignoring the other, he said, is discriminatory.

“This is no longer a question of neutral public health laws that are applied generally to everyone without discrimination. This is indifference and incomprehension at best, bias and discrimination at worst,” Meechmann wrote.

“The right to peaceful assembly, free speech, and petitioning the government for redress of grievances are right there in the First Amendment,” he said. “I’ve marched for the causes I support, so I support others when they do the same.”

Coincidental with the demonstrations, New York City has seen violence, vandalism and looting in the city over a period of several days. NYPD have said they made more than 900 arrests on Monday and Tuesday alone.

According to media reports, Mayor de Blasio’s daughter was arrested on Saturday along with 100 other protestors in a demonstration which saw roads blocked and objects thrown at police. After she was reportedly issued with a ticket for disorderly conduct, Mayor de Blasio said he believed his daughter had peacefully protested and he was “proud of her that she cares so much and she was willing to go out there and do something about it.”

On Thursday, the mayor announced that restaurants in the city will shortly be allowed to serve patrons outdoors.

“New York’s restaurants are part of what make us the greatest city in the world. They’ve taken a hit in our fight against COVID-19 – and there’s no recovery without them,” de Blasio stated. Churches are not slated to fully reopen until stage four of the state’s reopening program, along with schools, theaters, and entertainment venues.

Public Mass in the Archdiocese of New York has been suspended since March to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Churches in the city are open for private prayer, but not public Masses of even ten or fewer people.

Mayor de Blasio has already faced criticism for his treatment of houses of worship during the coronavirus pandemic, threatening mass arrests or even permanent closure of churches and synagogues that did not comply with public orders.

On March 27, the mayor called out a “small number of religious communities, specific churches and specific synagogues” for continuing to hold services during New York’s stay-at-home order.

If the services continued, he said, “our enforcement agents” would shut them down, and he threatened fines and even permanent closure of houses of worship for further disobedience of the order.

When thousands gathered to mourn at the funeral of a Hasidic rabbi in Brooklyn in late April, de Blasio said the mass gathering was “absolutely unacceptable.”

He threatened future religious gatherings with mass arrests.

“My message to the Jewish community, and all communities, is this simple: the time for warnings has passed. I have instructed the NYPD to proceed immediately to summons or even arrest those who gather in large groups,” he tweeted.

At the end of a June 3 press conference, de Blasio invoked the 1971 song “Imagine” by John Lennon to discuss the situation in the city while saying “I don’t mean to make light of this.”

The song imagines a more perfect world in which there is “no heaven” and “no religion.” De Blasio said the song asks essential questions “about a world where people got along differently.”

“What about a world where we didn’t live with a lot of the restrictions that we live with now?” he said. “But we’re not there yet. We are making a lot of progress, I truly believe,” he said.

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  1. I think Mr. de Blasio and the City of New York needs to be sued.

    First, there isn’t a hierarchy of values within the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights as de Blasio implies.

    Second, the protests in New York have gotten physical with protesters clashing with police. Social distancing requirements are impossible in protests of this nature.

    Religious gatherings, on the other hand, can easily maintain physical distancing requirements – especially in fixed buildings.

    Is Mr. de Blasio actually this dumb or is he just a two-bit tyrant – thus, my suggestion that a law suit needs to be filed.

  2. Odd that President Donald Trump is fighting harder for religious liberty in America and the world than the US Bishops, especially the Archbishop of Washington, DC. The whole point of President Trump going to JPII Shrine was to defend people’s right to worship anywhere in the world, but the Archbishop protested President Trump’s right to worship either in the Catholic Shrine (his wife is Catholic) or in the burned historical President’s church across the street from the White House. Seems like EVIL really doesn’t want this religious liberty to happen and is really putting up a battle with fire and pitchforks. Odd that the Archbishop of Washington DC who is the successor of McCarrick is on the side of Evil. This is really not about race, but a spiritual battle.

    • Grace – good piece, but I must say that I don’t – as in no longer – find it odd that President Trump is defending religious liberty while the U.S. Bishops bombard us with platitudes.

      “This is really not about race, but a spiritual battle.” NO argument there.

      • Remember that the demon “disguise himself as an angel of light”. I don’t see in Mr. Trump what you see. I am a Catholic seeking for the “Splendor of Truth”. I see on him only chaos.

        • Demon, will disguise himself. Demon will also lie when expedient. Like Obama when he spoke in defense of marriage only to turn around after elected. Like Pelosi when she said we have to pass this bill to see what’s in it. Like Bush senior when he told us to read hip lips. Like Bush junior when he said he will make sure US is not a world cop when elected. Like Clinton when she said that the attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi was caused by a funny youtube video. Like Biden, when…ever he opens his mouth.

          Trump, on the other hand, for all his faults, and with no help from either party, did stay course on abortion, economy, and such. He’s actually trying, and you should give him credit for still trying after seeing that majotiry of even his own party is against him…I don’t know where you see a demon there, Rigoberto, but if you do, go ahead and point it out to us so we can see.

    • Which people’s rights is he defending?
      Those which help his egoist personality?
      Donald Trump does not care about others.

    • Sad to see my Catholic brother agrees Trump using JPII Shrine (the body of Christ) to promote his political agenda and makes such an extreme judgement on Archbishop. Please note that the Religious Freedom cannot overruled the public health – Pandemic kills many human life!

      • Don’t know what country you’re talking about, but our constitution does certainly value religious freedom more than a virus.

        My favorite expert on the matter agrees: “…fear ye not them that kill the body, and are not able to kill the soul…” ~You Know Who

        • Right on, Wojtek. The virus of hate on both sides is killing our soul. How about everyone praying the Lord’s Prayer slowly. Trump is arrogant, no doubt about it, but can anyone name a humble politician or actor. I am still trying to find “my center in Christ.”

      • Pandemic kills many human life!(sic)
        Stop emoting. Based on current CDC data the latest Chinese virus has an overall mortality rate in the United States of 3.292626447288239e-4‬. That means 99.96707375527118% of the population will not succumb to the virus.

        God gave you a brain to think. Don’t abuse that gift by simply parroting the hysterical nonsense being spewed by demagogues.

      • Yes,in our country, it can. We have a law which guarantees us religious freedom. It cannot be suspended for the convenience of the govt. Those who are frightened of the virus are welcome to stay at home. Nobody is MAKING them go to church. But they need to stay out of the way of the rest of us who want a QUALITY of life. I had Covid in April. Do I sound dead to you?? Please stop with the dramatics.

    • It was another political stunt for a photo op for the president to ATTEMPT to appear to be like PSJPII in regards to solidarity with the marginalized which he truly IS NOT – as for the actions taken of using tear gas, flash bombs, shields and batons against US Citizens that were PEACEFUL PROTESTERS exercising there First Amendment Rights to move them away from Lafayette Park so he could have another SHOW & TELL photo op by holding up a bible in front of a boarded up historical church was another staged moment made for TV by the president … WAKE UP AMERICA OUR DEMOCRACY IS AT RISK! May the good Lord grant discernment to American citizens that they are being ruled by the FATHER OF LIES – DJT! The corona virus is still prevalent and the president wanted to do a trade deal before addressing the pandemic which in fact he defunded the department of pandemic in 2018 – he only allowed the Russians in the White House Oval Office for a Kremlin photo op at the beginning of his presidency – he appeared at the ProLife rally in Washington DC to APPEAR to be ProLife but the Access Hollywood tape would beg to differ and the First Lady said it was just locker room talk – His tweets are lie after lie and spun conspiracy theories, etc….

      • Well, possibly, he is a politician, so…
        His pro-mask opponents (why only mask, by the way, Democrats are also pro-hood, historically speaking) like Biden, who tells blacks at a gathering “if you have a hard time figuring out who to vote for you ain’t black,” is much better, clearly…

      • Oh honey, you believe TRUMP is the problem??? While so called protesters are burning churches and the cities and destroying businesses? Killing cops?? Including BLACK cops?? All the riots are doing is confirming the opinion of the bigots. But its clear from the rioters actions there is bigotry on both sides. Obama could not have been elected TWICE without a sizeable portion of the WHITE vote. No place is perfect but this is what we have for now. We can work on it together or look at a very unpleasant future.

  3. Hillary: “deplorables”–re binaries who are not yet brainwashed,

    Gregory: “reprehensible”–re a scheduled religious freedom event at the JP II memorial,

    De Blasio: “unacceptable”–re side-street Masses with sprinkled Holy Water (and threatened “‘mass’ arrests”!) versus mass gatherings on main street with high-flying frozen water bottles.

    The one-word analyses from our smart-phone/opposable-thumb culture. We’re runnin’ outa one-word labels here! Food4lions?

  4. I understand a joke currently going around Jewish circles in New York City is,

    “Why does the groom break a glass in the Chuppah?”

    “So Blasio will think it’s a riot, and not — God forbid! — a wedding.”

  5. De Blasio is an idiot who has no idea what the Constitution says or means. The Catholic Church nationwide needs to fight back. If the Bishops conference would have showed some spine when the Wuhan pandemic began, we would not be where we are now. Seems to me the Fatima predictions are right.

  6. Then PROTEST, by opening the churches and defying the city to round up believers as they did in the early years. Whining is worthless.

  7. There is one major distinction about President Trump which many people seem to overlook: He is not bought, paid for, or under the control of any external political group. Not even his own Republican Party. He is his own man, and not a puppet. This is why there is so much howling and noise, because he is a “disruptor” who follows his own independent sensibilities, without knuckling under to power groups seeking to preserve their “back room”, “under-the-table”, hidden agendas and privileged hierarchies. He follows his own instincts. He may be unapologetically rude, crude, and all the other adjectives that go along with it; but he is also undeniably courageous, steadfast, assertive, hardworking, effective, patriotic, and a strong leader. For him, “Make America Great Again” is not merely a political platitude, but truly a mission statement. He is the only president in my 60-years lifetime who actually delivers on his campaign promises. Despite all his warts, his integrity when compared with all other politicians has been OUTSTANDING. He is MAKING A DIFFERENCE in a big way. He is truly moving the needle on Pro-Life, religious liberty, and Christian religious values. . . CATHOLIC values. . .
    I’m not drinking anybody’s Kool-Aid, just calling it as I see it. All these phony “Catholics” who acquiesce to, defend, and even promote the culture of death & abortion do NOT speak for me. It’s painful when phony “Catholic” politicians parade themselves as being representative of the Catholic faithful in front of the world, and constantly promote fake news, propaganda, and hypocritical reverse-discrimination against their own people. I forgive their souls, but not their moral positions. It’s high time that we stand up for, proclaim, and unashamedly promote our Catholic values while actively working to defend them.

    • Signor Cecchetti, THANK YOU so very much for your excellent statement. INDEED, Mr. Trump is his own man. He promised no one anything in order t be elected. NOBODY is making any money on his being elected. NOT LOBBIES are pressuring him since he promised nothing to any one. HE DID, however, promised the AMERICAN PEOPLE TO MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, and to return AMERICA TO THE PEOPLE, Na, inspire of the fact that the opposition has done NOTHING for which they were elected, but trying to stop him from doing his job, he has made good on all of his promises, and will continue to do so, IF ALLOWED. YES INDEED, HE IS DEFINITELY A GREAT AMERICAN, A TRUE PATRIOT. MAY GOD BLESS HIM. I PRAY FOR HIM CONSTANTLY.

      • One negative comment about Trump. He is not very “cool.” As many beautiful people in Hollywood. I personally prefer uncool and ugly if it accomplishes something.

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