The New York City Mayor has warned, churches and synagogues that continue to conduct worship services during the COVID-19 pandemic could be permanently closed down.
During his Friday news briefing, Mayor Bill de Blasio said, law enforcement will be sent to shut down any worship services held over the weekend in violation of the ban on gatherings. If the congregation fails to comply, additional action will be taken, including fines and potential permanent closure of the building.
“I want to say to all those who are preparing for 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.”
For the handful who haven’t, it's my sad duty to say that if you hold large gatherings at a house of worship this weekend, we will have to enforce the rules for everyone’s safety.
— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) March 28, 2020
De Blasio went on to say, “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.
“If that does not happen they will take additional action, up to the point of fines and potentially closing the building permanently.”
Columnist and author Todd Starnes called the move a direct assault on religious liberty.
“There’s no doubt that churches should take reasonable precautions to protect their congregations. It’s prudent to cancel services or move to online worship,” he said.
“But the government has no right to dispatch ‘enforcement agents’ to literally shut down houses of worship in the name of public safety.”
De Blasio has reportedly issued no threats or warnings to Muslims gathering in mosques.