Southern Baptist leaders have taken issues with recent New York City Democrat Mayor Bill de Blasio's threat of arrests for not following social distancing guidelines targeting, "Jewish community".
It is the mayor's second set of angry comments toward religious groups in barely a month after he commented to close churches permanently if they continue to gather during the COVID-19 pandemic.
De Blasio wrote on Twitter Tuesday singling out the "Jewish community" after overseeing the scattering of reportedly hundreds of people gathered for an Hasidic rabbi's funeral Tuesday (April 28) in Brooklyn.
"Something absolutely unacceptable happened in Williamsburg tonight: a large funeral gathering in the middle of this pandemic. When I heard, I went there myself to ensure the crowd was dispersed. And what I saw WILL NOT be tolerated so long as we are fighting the Coronavirus," de Blasio wrote on Twitter after the evening funeral gathering was dispersed.
Six minutes later, he tweeted, "My message to the Jewish community, and all communities, is this simple: the time for warnings has passed. I have instructed the NYPD to proceed immediately to summons or even arrest those who gather in large groups. This is about stopping this disease and saving lives. Period."
Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), told Baptist Press he is "fully supportive" of civil authorities taking measures to protect their communities in light of this pandemic. But that's not what this is. "Threats against religious communities are uncalled for, especially the way the mayor has chosen here," Moore said in a written statement. "It is all the more concerning given last week was Holocaust Memorial Day, and he yet has decided to single out the Jewish community with these disturbing comments."
ERLC Executive Vice President Daniel Patterson, who has spoken to many pastors about religious liberty concerns during the pandemic, said, "Times like these call for seriousness and statesmanship from our leaders. The mayor, unfortunately, is demonstrating neither in his recent comments. No one is served by saber-rattling," Baptist Press reported.
"The simple reality is that churches and faith communities across the country have been at the forefront of carefulness and cooperation," Patterson told BP in written remarks, "and good things happen for our communities when public officials meet these efforts with appreciation rather than ill-temperedness."
De Blasio faced instant and widespread backlash from Jewish organizations and at least one City Council member for singling out Jews, but the mayor denied the charges.
Chaim Deutsch, who represents a part of Brooklyn that has a large Orthodox Jewish population, said on Twitter, "This has to be a joke," The New York Times reported.
"Every neighborhood has people who are being non-compliant," Deutsch tweeted. "To speak to an entire ethnic group as though we are all flagrantly violating precautions is offensive, it's stereotyping, and it's inviting antisemitism."
Critics of the mayor's Twitter also found that thousands of people in the city had gathered to watch a military flyover at the same day of the funeral, but local officials didn't stop them. According to New York Post, hundreds packed shoulder to shoulder to catch a glimpse of the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds.
Meetings of any size are prohibited in New York state during the pandemic, and officials have broken up several religious gatherings in the city, including weddings and funerals in large Jewish communities, The Times reported.