CNA Staff, Mar 30, 2020 / 09:00 am America/Denver (CNA).
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Friday, March 27 threatened to “permanently” shut down houses of worship that continue to hold public services in violation of the city’s ban on gatherings of any size.
The mayor cited a "small number of religious communities, specific churches and specific synagogues,” that are continuing to hold religious services despite a prohibition on anyone being within six feet of a person they do not live with. The restrictions were made in an attempt to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, which has infected thousands of New Yorkers and has killed over 1,000 people in the state.
De Blasio warned that if these communities were found to be holding religious services, “our enforcement agents will have no choice but to shut down those services.”
The religious congregations would also be subject to other punishments for continued defiance of the stay-at-home order, de Blasio added. This “additional action” that would be taken includes fines, as well as “potentially closing the building permanently.”
Catholic churches in the Archdiocese of New York and the Diocese of Brooklyn, which cover all five boroughs of New York City, suspended the public celebration of Mass on March 14 and March 16, respectively. New York’s “stay-at-home” order was issued on March 22, and was recently extended through April 15.
De Blasio’s threat to shut down religious buildings “permanently” provoked criticism from religious liberty experts, his legal authority to do so.