New York Mayor de Blasio Threatens to ‘Permanently’ Shut Churches That Persist in Holding Services

By Terence P. Jeffrey | March 31, 2020 | 1:10pm EDT
Mayor Bill de Blasio (Screen Capture)
Mayor Bill de Blasio (Screen Capture)

(CNSNews.com) - New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) is threatening to “permanently” close the meeting places of religious organizations that persist in holding services while the city is shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“A small number of religious communities, specific churches, specific synagogues are unfortunately not paying attention to this guidance [to close] even though it's been so widespread,” de Blasio said in a briefing on Friday.

“So, I want to say to all those who are preparing the potential of religious services this weekend: if you go to your synagogue, if you go to your church and attempt to hold services after having been told so often not to, our enforcement agents will have no choice but to shut down those services,” he said.

De Blasio does not belong to any religious denomination. In a question-and-answer session on Reddit six years ago, he said: “Although my mother was raised a Catholic, she did not bring me up in the Church. I considered myself a spiritual person but unaffiliated, and I was definitely very influenced by the liberation theology movement in Latin America. And BOY am I a fan of Pope Francis!”

In his briefing on Friday, de Blasio said he would be deploying the city’s police, fire and buildings departments to make sure religious services did not take place in the city. If congregations did not discontinue holding services in buildings within the city once they had been warned, his government would be “potentially closing the building permanently.”

“A vast majority of houses of worship have stopped their traditional worship service,” de Blasio said. “If they could, they went online, they went on the radio, whatever they could do, but they've stopped gathering people, understanding the nature of the crisis.”

“No faith tradition endorses anything that endangers the members of that faith,” he said. “So, the NYPD, Fire Department, Buildings Department, and everyone has been instructed that if they see worship services going on, they will go to the officials of that congregation, they'll inform them they need to stop the services and disperse. 

“If that does not happen, they will take additional action up to the point of fines and potentially closing the building permanently,” de Blasio said.

“Again, that will begin this weekend,” he said.

“Again, I'm sorry I have to tell you this, but anyone who's hearing this take it seriously,” he said. “You've been warned, you need to stop services, help people practice their faith in different ways, but not in groups, not in gatherings that could endanger people.”

Here is a transcript of the part of de Blasio’s briefing where he threatened that religious facilities could be closed permanently if they persisted in having services:

“Another area, and it pains me to say this and it's probably a pretty limited phenomenon, but it has to be addressed. I've spoken to religious leaders of all backgrounds and I want to thank them.

“So many of our religious leaders have really taken a lead and said to their congregation, said to members of our faith communities that we have to act differently now. A vast majority of houses of worship have stopped their traditional worship service. If they could, they went online, they went on the radio, whatever they could do, but they've stopped gathering people, understanding the nature of the crisis.

“We've had extraordinary support from the leaders of major Christian denominations. We've had extraordinary across the board, rabbinical support from all the different elements of the Jewish community, and the same is true other faiths as well.

“A small number--a small number of religious communities, specific churches, specific synagogues are unfortunately not paying attention to this guidance even though it's been so widespread. So, I want to say to all those who are preparing the potential of religious services this weekend--if you go to your synagogue, if you go to your church and attempt to hold services after having been told so often not to, our enforcement agents will have no choice but to shut down those services. I don't say that with any joy. It’s the last thing I would like to do because I understand how important people's faiths are to them, and we need our faiths in this time of crisis, but we do not need gatherings that will endanger people.

“No – no faith tradition endorses anything that endangers the members of that faith. So, the NYPD, Fire Department, Buildings Department, and everyone has been instructed that if they see worship services going on, they will go to the officials of that congregation, they'll inform them they need to stop the services and disperse. If that does not happen, they will take additional action up to the point of fines and potentially closing the building permanently. Again, that will begin this weekend. Again, I'm sorry I have to tell you this, but anyone who's hearing this take it seriously. You've been warned, you need to stop services, help people practice their faith in different ways, but not in groups, not in gatherings that could endanger people.”

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