Presumably, Eric Adams ran for mayor because he believed in wisely wielding the resources of city government to solve problems from crime to poverty to public health to education and beyond. But you wouldn’t know his speech Thursday at Columbia Teachers College: “Our challenge is not economics. Our challenge is not finance. Our challenge is faith.” He’s learned too little from two weeks ago, when he rightly caught flak for lamenting the end of prayer in public schools.
Adams believes in God and believes deeply. No problem there: There is nothing wrong and plenty right with a public official being grounded in and guided by values that come from religion, whether that’s Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism or other.
Nor is there anything wrong with respectful partnerships between faith-based organizations and secular public institutions, so long as they don’t amount to the explicit public endorsement of — in the Constitution’s words, establishment of — religion. We’re more than fine with faith leaders joining secular ones to combat violence, run secular after-school programs, serve migrants and other initiatives to advance the common good. We’ve got no problem with what Adams suggested when he urged faith leaders to help recruit a new generation of police officers. Adams himself entered the NYPD thanks to the encouragement of his pastor, the Rev. Herbert Daughtry.
The key point is that the moment he put on the blue uniform, Adams spent his time (and our tax dollars) fighting crime — not proselytizing.
Thursday, Adams framed this as a core question of his administration: “How do we take a city that is the center of the power of America and turn it into a city, when you enter it, everyone sees faith and sees God?”
He wants New York to be “a home of God.” New York is home to millions of people of faith. It’s also home to many who don’t believe, and where a larger understandably rightly resists a heavy government hand in pushing any particular creed. Let’s keep it that way, please.