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By Mark Stamey and Larry McShane
Mar 03, 2023 at 4:03 pm

The City Hall version of fire and brimstone rained down Friday as protesters blasted Mayor Adams over his remarks dismissing the separation of church and state.

Local religious leaders and community activists criticized Adams in a protest outside the mayor’s Manhattan office, insisting the city’s top elected official was way off base with his remarks dismissing the notion of a clear line of demarcation laid out by the nation’s founding fathers.

“He said that he was a servant of God,” said Rabbi Emily Cohen. “And I wanted to assert that Mayor Adams was a servant of those who elected him.”

Her sentiment was echoed by the Rev. Amanda Hambrick Aschraft of the Middle Church in Manhattan as protesters gathered outside City Hall.

“I was appalled to hear the Adams administration say they oppose the separation of church and state,” she said. “Separation of church and state actually allows and protects religious freedoms. To have church and state meshed together is wildly dangerous.”

The gathering was sparked after the Christian mayor dismissed the notion of the longstanding precept earlier this week.

“Don’t tell me about no separation of church and state,” said Adams. “State is the body, church is the heart. You take the heart out of the body, the body dies. I can’t separate my beliefs because I’m an elected official.”

But critics, including fellow Democrats and civil rights advocates, quickly contended his remarks run counter to deep-rooted U.S. values.

Alicia Nascimento, director for New York Communities for Change, said Adams — who as recently as last February asserted “God” told him to become mayor — said she was distressed by the mayor’s remarks.

“We’re here to push back against the mayor’s comment about the separation of church and state, and the mayor’s ungodly budget cuts,” said Nascimento. “I’m not sure what god he’s praying to, but it should stay out of our government.

“People of faith in New York are the most diverse in the country,” she continued. “We deserve a mayor who represents us all.”

While Adams has spoken extensively about the importance of faith in his civic life over the course of his career, the City Hall demonstrators charged his latest remarks had gone too far.

“His comments about church and state alarmed a lot of people,” said community activist James Innis. “This isn’t something flying under the radar that the media is making up. I’ve heard this rhetoric before and I’ve seen the road it leads us down. And that’s what alarmed me the most.”

Abby Stein, a transgender activist from Brooklyn, said she was astounded to hear the mayor’s remarks while attending the breakfast.

“He said during the breakfast he’s a servant of god, which is a horrible thing to say,” said Stein, who was at the Friday event. “You’re a servant of the people. You’re elected by the people.”

Cohen said she was astonished by the mayor’s remarks, saying the separation of church and student was fundamental to the safety of both.

“I want Mayor Adams to know that he does not speak for the religious leaders of this city,” she said.

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