Eric Adams reportedly ran for mayor because he believed in the wise use of city government resources to solve problems from crime to poverty to public health to education and more. But he wouldn’t know about his Thursday speech at Columbia Teachers College: “Our challenge is not the economy. Our challenge is not funding. Our challenge is faith.” He has learned very little since two weeks ago, when he was criticized for lamenting the end of prayer in public schools.
Adams believes in God and he believes deeply. There is no problem there: there is nothing wrong and quite good that a public official is based and guided by the values that come from religion, be it Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism or others. .
There is also nothing wrong with respectful partnerships between faith-based organizations and secular public institutions, as long as they do not amount to explicit public endorsement of, in the words of the Constitution, the establishment of religion. We are more than okay with religious leaders joining with secular ones to combat violence, run secular after-school programs, serve immigrants, and other initiatives to promote the common good. We have no problem with what Adams suggested when he urged religious leaders to help recruit a new generation of police officers. Adams himself joined the NYPD at the encouragement of his pastor, the Reverend Herbert Daughtry.
The bottom line is that the moment he donned the blue uniform, Adams spent his time (and our tax dollars) fighting crime, not proselytizing.
On Thursday, Adams framed this as a central question of his administration: “How do we take a city that is the center of America’s power and make it a city, when you walk in, everyone sees faith and they see God?”
He wants New York to be “a home of God.” New York is home to millions of people of faith. It is also home to many who do not believe, and where a major understandably resists a heavy hand from the government to push any particular creed. Let’s leave it at that, please.