A leading Christian journal has accused New York Mayor Bill de Blasio of overstepping his authority by threatening to permanently close synagogues and churches that fail to comply with his ban on public gatherings.
Writing for the Christian Post Tuesday, seminary professor Michael Brown appealed to the mayor to withdraw his threat, insisting it was “reckless” and could “actually provoke people of faith to defy you.”
“What on earth prompted you to say what you said?” Dr. Brown writes. “Mr. Mayor, what gives you that authority?”
Insisting that he has personally urged pastors and Christian leaders to comply with the mayor’s bans on public gatherings, Brown nonetheless takes issue with de Blasio’s abuse of power and needless harshness.
“Yet when you specifically threaten to permanently close synagogues and churches that do not comply, you immediately raise concerns,” Brown writes. “This certainly does look like religious discrimination.”
Brown also wonders aloud why the mayor threatened only Jews and Christians while making no such threat against Muslims who worship.
“I want to say to all those who are preparing for 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,” de Blasio said.
“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,” the mayor added. “If that does not happen, they will take additional action up to the point of fines and potentially closing the building permanently.”
“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,” he concluded.
You “seriously overstepped your bounds” when you also said this, Brown writes, by threatening an action that is “both illegal and unconstitutional.”
“With all respect, sir, and meaning no insult, this sounded to me like a frustrated parent, upping his threat to his kids when they do not obey,” he notes.
Brown urges the mayor to not “needlessly provoke religious leaders and believers” who have actually done a great job of complying with the bans.
From our perspective as lovers of God and lovers of life, Brown adds, “your harsh threats are all the more hypocritical and glaring when we realize that you have allowed abortion facilities to remain open during the crisis.”
“The elective slaughtering of babies in the womb is considered an essential service, but Jewish and Christian believers who would dare gather together to pray are threatened with permanent closure of their buildings,” he observes.
Dr. Brown was not alone in his consternation over the mayor’s threats.
“I don’t care how bad the Wuhan virus gets, there’s no legal authority for government officials to permanently shut down worship services,” wrote Red State contributor “Bonchie.”
“None at all. They can make requests and set guidelines, but it’s a gross violation of the Constitution to shut down the use of private property for religious services,” he said. “There are some things that are more important than short term measures to fight a health crisis and religious freedom is one of those things.”