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July 22, 2001

Bloomberg Threatens Religious Liberty in New York City

Listed in: Separation of Church and State, NJDC News, Press Releases

WASHINGTON, DC: Ira N. Forman, Executive Director of the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC), criticized Republican candidate for New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, who came out last week in support of posting the Ten Commandments in classrooms. While touring the Hudson River Park on Friday, Bloomberg told reporters: "I don't see how you can study history without reading the Ten Commandments." He added that the tenets "are probably a good thing to post." Bloomberg also said, "I think it is a good guideline for all of us. While you want to keep church and state separate, you must remember that if you look at the currency in your pocket, it does say 'In God we trust." Bloomberg's comment was one in a series of controversial statements made by the candidate. He said yesterday that if he were elected mayor, he would consider himself New York's "third senator." Last Thursday, he endorsed reciting the Lord's Prayer in public schools.

"Bloomberg's comments were wildly out of touch with New York's Jewish community and oddly disconnected from reality," said Forman. "While Bloomberg may not get it, thankfully the Courts understand the danger inherent in letting schools post the Ten Commandments. The principle of separation of church and state fulfills the Constitution's legacy of religious liberty for all Americans. Government may teach about religion, but may not preach religion. The Ten Commandments advocate believing in God, observing the Sabbath and not worshipping idols. Those are religious beliefs, and teaching such beliefs is inappropriate in public schools. Those religions that do adhere to the Ten Commandments follow a very different version of the Commandments. Is Mr. Bloomberg referring to the ancient Hebrew text followed by Jews, the language found in the King James Bible version accepted by most Protestants, or the Catholic and Lutheran version that follow another text altogether? I call on Michael Bloomberg to freshen up on his knowledge of the U.S. Constitution, if he's serious about his mayoral candidacy."