Failed Democratic presidential candidate and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says his administration will provide free meals to Muslims celebrating Ramadan.
The annual Islamic holy month began Thursday and will run until May 23, and those celebrating in New York City will be presented with 400,000 halal meals, de Blasio announced.
It seems like a kind gesture during a time when New York is the nation’s largest COVID-19 hotspot. But it also sharply contrasts with de Blasio’s treatment of the city’s Jews and Christians amid the coronavirus crisis.
Last month, the mayor threatened to permanently shutter churches and synagogues, just weeks ahead of Easter and Passover.
Now, de Blasio is literally catering to his city’s Muslims.
De Blasio made the Ramadan announcement at a media briefing Thursday in which he lamented that Christians and Jews were unable to celebrate their respective holidays this month.
“We all wish that the celebrations of Easter and Passover could have been so different,” he said.
The mayor then described Ramadan as a “profoundly important holiday,” before announcing the city will feed New York’s Muslims holy meals until late May.
“One of Ramadan’s most noble callings is to feed the hungry. And it’s a crucial part of how the holiday is celebrated, to remember to be there for those in need. And that is now harder than ever,” de Blasio continued.
“Obviously, people can’t go to their mosques. In fact, mosques have often been a place that those who were hungry, those who were poor, would know they could go during Ramadan to break the fast,” he said.
“They knew there would always be a meal there for them. That’s not going to be true in this season. So, we want to, the city of New York wants to support this community as we’re supporting all communities.”
As Muslim New Yorkers prepare to start the holy month of Ramadan tonight, Mayor Bill de Blasio says the city is taking steps to support the Muslim community with Halal food programs.
“Over half a million meals will be distributed during Ramadan” for Muslim New Yorkers in need pic.twitter.com/d4PbFtGMa5
— CBS News (@CBSNews) April 23, 2020
It’s nice to see the mayor step up and help a people of devoted faith during their time of worship.
He was threatening them, and it was just three weeks ago.
“So, I want to say to all those who are preparing the potential of religious services this weekend — if you go to your synagogue, if you go to your church and attempt to hold services after having been told so often not to, our enforcement agents will have no choice but to shut down those services,” de Blasio said two weeks before Good Friday.
“No faith tradition endorses anything that endangers the members of that faith,” he said.
“So, the NYPD, Fire Department, Buildings Department, and everyone has been instructed that if they see worship services going on, they will go to the officials of that congregation, they’ll inform them they need to stop the services and disperse,” he continued.
“If that does not happen, they will take additional action up to the point of fines and potentially closing the building permanently,” de Blasio concluded.
De Blasio: churches and synagogues that hold worship services may be closed permanently pic.twitter.com/kdUsdbP2YO
— Matthew Schmitz (@matthewschmitz) March 29, 2020
The mayor made no mention of mosques in those comments.
While I am not arguing against feeding anyone in need of a meal during this time of crisis and uncertainty, and recognize that New York undoubtedly has a better hold on its number of cases and hospitalizations than it did a few weeks ago, de Blasio’s sudden goodwill approach toward people of faith reeks of favoritism toward Islam and thus raises questions about its constitutionality.
In Lemon v. Kurtzman in 1971, the U.S. Supreme Court established a “Lemon Test” weighing whether acts or policies by government are unconstitutional based on the First Amendment’s prohibiting the establishment of a religion.
In order to be constitutional, such a policy must have a nonreligious purpose, not end up promoting or favoring any set of religious beliefs and it must not overly entangle the government with religion, the court ruled.
While de Blasio’s contrasting policies for getting people of faith to stay at home during the coronavirus crisis might not end up in court, it would be interesting to hear him explain why he used a stick against Christians and Jews while offering Muslims a carrot.
CORRECTION, April 24, 2020: When referencing Mayor de Blasio’s Thursday announcement about Ramadan, a previous version of this article erroneously stated that he described Islam as an important holiday in one instance. We apologize for the error, and to our readers for any confusion we may have caused.
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