On March 31, 2020, New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms wrote to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to ask that he reconsider some unwise remarks he made about churches and other faith communities.
On March 27, the Mayor warned religious institutions that persistently fail to comply with coronavirus-related limits on public gatherings that their services could face fines or permanent closure.
NYCF urges churches to avoid meeting in person during the COVID-19 epidemic. It is unfortunate that a few faith communities have defied coronavirus regulations by continuing to gather; this practice could endanger the health of worshippers and the surrounding community by allowing the virus to spread within an enclosed space. However, the Mayor’s comments were unnecessarily threatening and exceeded the scope of his authority. As we told the Mayor, his remarks “have sparked controversy and have given rise to a concern that [he] may lack respect for constitutional guarantees regarding the free exercise of religion.” We expressed a desire to speak with someone in the Mayor’s administration to discuss ways that he might clarify his comments to assuage this concern.
As of this writing, Mayor de Blasio has not responded to our letter.