WASHINGTON (BP) — Southern Baptist leaders have called for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to change his handling of religious groups after his second set of threatening comments in barely a month during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
De Blasio oversaw the scattering of reportedly hundreds of people gathered for the funeral of a Jewish rabbi Tuesday (April 28) in Brooklyn, then threatened on Twitter to have people arrested in the future. His response to the Hasidic Jewish gathering followed his March 27 warning that buildings of churches and other religious groups might be closed permanently if they continue to gather for corporate worship.
After the evening funeral gathering was dispersed, de Blasio wrote on Twitter, “Something absolutely unacceptable happened in Williamsburg tonite: a large funeral gathering in the middle of this pandemic. When I heard, I went there myself to ensure the crowd was dispersed. And what I saw WILL NOT be tolerated so long as we are fighting the Coronavirus.”
Six minutes later, he tweeted, “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. This is about stopping this disease and saving lives. Period.”
Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), told Baptist Press he is “fully supportive of civil authorities taking measures to protect their communities in light of this pandemic. But that’s not what this is.
“Threats against religious communities are uncalled for, especially the way the mayor has chosen here,” Moore said in a written statement. “It is all the more concerning given last week was Holocaust Memorial Day, and he yet has decided to single out the Jewish community with these disturbing comments.”
ERLC Executive Vice President Daniel Patterson, who has spoken to many pastors about religious liberty concerns during the pandemic, said, “Times like these call for seriousness and statesmanship from our leaders. The mayor, unfortunately, is demonstrating neither in his recent comments. No one is served by saber-rattling.
“The simple reality is that churches and faith communities across the country have been at the forefront of carefulness and cooperation,” Patterson told BP in written remarks, “and good things happen for our communities when public officials meet these efforts with appreciation rather than ill-temperedness.”
De Blasio received criticism from Jewish organizations and at least one City Council member for singling out Jews, but the mayor denied the charges.
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Source: Baptist Press