Bloomberg’s War on Religion (Updated)


The nightly cityscape is lit up by holiday lights, Christmas trees and menorahs. From the looks of things you wouldn’t think that a war on religious freedom was occurring in New York City.

But there is one. And it’s been going on for quite some time.

If in baseball, its three strikes and you’re out, then for the religious community, Mayor Michael Bloomberg is Dave Kingman

 Tom Seaver, the NY Mets all-time single-season

strikeout leader.

Strike one: Bloomberg barred the participation of faith leaders in the city’s official 10th anniversary 9/11 remembrance ceremony. Many believe that Bloomberg wanted to avoid any controversy involving the participation of a Muslim cleric.

Strike two: Bloomberg’s Department of Education has banned (effective February 2012) churches and other religious groups from renting space in public school buildings for weekend worship services, a significant source of revenue for our cash-strapped city.

Strike three: our city’s cash-strapped housing authority (NYCHA) is evicting churches from community spaces despite their stabilizing influence.

The Mayor’s new sexuality education mandate is viewed by many religious leaders as yet another strike, a fourth one. Muslim leaders, who are boycotting the Mayor’s annual Bagels with Bloomberg interfaith breakfast, would argue that the NYPD’s covert surveillance of their community is a fifth strike. To others, his embrace of same-sex marriage is yet another strike, a sixth one. Two outs!

In the criminal justice system, two or more violent felony convictions and you become a persistent offender subject to life in prison. Mayor Bloomberg has racked up an impressive rap sheet in his war against religion in the public square.

As a result, Rev. Michel Faulkner and other faith leaders have begun serious talks about denying the pulpit to Mayor Bloomberg, other public officials, and political candidates unless and until they pledge to end the war on religion. Faulkner says political candidates must stand up for religious freedom.

The US Constitution’s First Amendment protects freedom of religion and prohibits the establishment of a state religion (e.g., Anglicanism in Great Britain and Islam in the Islamic Republic of Iran) with the separation of church and state clause. The Constitution also prohibits a religious test for holding public office. But nowhere in the Constitution is government charged with scrubbing the public square clean of religion. In fact, the first amendment restricts the government, not religious groups and individuals.

Religious freedom must be protected by government, not limited by it. The secularization of New York City seems to be this Mayor’s fervent mission.

In recent polls, 61% of New York-area residents report that religious faith is very important to them. Religious belief and spirituality, however, seems unwelcome in Bloomberg’s New York.

Religious “disbelief” is not equivalent to religious belief and should not be given equal treatment. Nonbelievers are free to exercise their choice, but they are not free to impose that choice on everyone by insisting that other voices be silenced.

The exclusion of religion from public life is and of itself is a governmental imposition. We only have to look at Communist China, the People’s Republic of Korea and other totalitarian regimes to see where religious expression is controlled by the state. Nonbelief is the official state religion and it is ruthlessly enforced.

Despite his inflated assertion that he’s commander-in-chief of the world’s seventh largest army with an anti-aircraft missile defense system, our Great Mayor’s march towards secularism will not so easily be imposed on New Yorkers.

New York City is not Beijing or Pyongyang.

-30-

Posted from WordPress for Android

Posted from WordPress for Android

About SquarePegDem

A former state legislator turned NY Post editorial board member, thought-leader, public affairs consultant and commentator, columnist and blogger. Michael has appeared on Al Jazeera America Tonight, NY1/Inside City Hall, FoxNews.com LIVE, YNN/Capital Tonight, The Brian Lehrer Show, The Fred Dicker Show, The Capitol Press Room, and The Daily Show. His op-eds have appeared in the NY Post, City and State, The Legislative Gazette, Bronx Times, The Troy Record, Buffalo News, and the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. To schedule speaking engagements, email MBenjamin9@optimum.net.
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2 Responses to Bloomberg’s War on Religion (Updated)

  1. voodoo says:

    Nice Post Sharing Religious “disbelief” is not equivalent to religious belief and should not be given equal treatment.

    Like

  2. dougindeap says:

    It is important to distinguish between the “public square” and “government” and between “individual” and “government” speech about religion. The constitutional principle of separation of church and state does not purge religion from the public square–far from it. Indeed, the First Amendment’s “free exercise” clause assures that each individual is free to exercise and express his or her religious views–publicly as well as privately. The Amendment constrains only the government not to promote or otherwise take steps toward establishment of religion. As government can only act through the individuals comprising its ranks, when those individuals are performing their official duties (e.g., public school teachers instructing students in class), they effectively are the government and thus should conduct themselves in accordance with the First Amendment’s constraints on government. When acting in their individual capacities, they are free to exercise their religions as they please. If their right to free exercise of religion extended even to their discharge of their official responsibilities, however, the First Amendment constraints on government establishment of religion would be eviscerated. While figuring out whether someone is speaking for the government in any particular circumstance may sometimes be difficult, making the distinction is critical.

    Like

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