Why Are Dems Surprised at Eric Adams's Rant Against Church-State Separation?Roundup
tags: secularism, Eric Adams
Whenever Democrats speak at “prayer breakfasts,” secular nausea ensues. On Tuesday, New York City Mayor Eric Adams induced queasiness in secularists, be they believers or nonbelievers, when he proclaimed: “Don’t tell me about no separation of church and state. State is the body. Church is the heart. You take the heart out of the body, the body dies.”
That was only the coffee and juice. The Democrat then lamented the 1962 Supreme Court decision which deemed voluntary, nondenominational school prayer to be a violation of the establishment clause. “When we took prayers out of schools,” the mayor reasoned, “guns came into schools.” And then the sausages were served: Adams modestly noted that he employs a “godlike approach” when implementing his policies.
The New York Times described the event as “surreal.” Then again, The New York Times platforms a bevy of anti-secular opinion columnists, alongside guest essayists who reason that Tucker Carlson, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and BarStool Sports founder David Portnoy represent the vanguard of a fresh, new secular conservatism. But for those who study American secularism, there was little surreal or even surprising about the interfaith breakfast. The assault on the “wall of separation between church and state” has been ongoing for half a century; it is all but accomplished.
“These comments from Mayor Adams,” wrote Amanda Tyler, executive director of Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, "are extremely troubling. We should expect our elected officials to govern without regard to religion and respect the institutional separation of church and state, which ensures religious freedom for everyone.” The executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, Donna Lieberman, remarked in a tweet: “On matters of faith, the Mayor is entitled to his own beliefs. On the Constitution, he must uphold his oath.”
The first step to countering this development is to accurately recognize what is going on. Democratic voters, and even sometimes secular activists, need to better grasp how thorough the decimation of the mid-century separationist status quo has been. They also need to accurately identify where these theocratic impulses come from and why they have political appeal.
Anti-separationism in particular, and anti-secularism in general (we’ll get to the differences below) are policies commonly associated with today’s GOP and its overlapping mix of religious conservatives and MAGA enthusiasts. But Democrats too, like Adams, have been playing with this holy fire for decades. Further, Adam’s position, as we shall see, is not that unusual among African American politicians and clerics.