At an interfaith breakfast last week, the New York City mayor Eric Adams courted controversy when he not only endorsed school prayer, but dismissed concerns about the separation of church and state, declaring, “State is the body. Church is the heart. You take the heart out of the body, the body dies.” The editors of the New York Sun praise his remarks:
Neither the word “wall” nor “separation” appears anywhere in the Constitution. Yet this confounded wall was used by the state of Maine to exclude students in a voucher program from attending their choice of a school if their choice was a religious school. It was used by Montana to do the same, as well as the state of Missouri to deny funds for playground safety at a religious school.
Yet we have been unable to find in any of those [or similar] cases a major Democratic politician siding with the religious party. We might have missed someone. The silence, though, is deafening. It strikes at the heart of New York, where beleaguered ḥasidic Jews face attacks from the state itself, demanding they educate their children in profane subjects and prohibiting the most Orthodox of Jews the right of free exercise.
So congratulations to Mr. Adams for his remarks. He expresses a modern Washingtonian view of religion and citizenship—a positive vision of the role of faith in American life. “When we took prayers out of schools, guns came into schools,” Mr. Adams said. He reminds us of George Washington’s farewell address, in which he urged the American people to ensure the flourishing of religious life to guarantee the wellbeing of the nation.
“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports,” the first president told the nation. “Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.” Washington sought no persecution of secularists. Neither would he brook religious exclusion, and it’s nice to hear the Mayor of New York echo his sentiments.