New York’s unlikely voice for religion: A secular mayor

Bill de Blasio

As the leader of a famously secular city, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has emerged as an unexpected a champion of religion whose administration has advanced the cause of faith groups in the unlikeliest of public squares, reports The New York Times in Crux.

Growing up, Mayor Bill de Blasio was the only child on his block who did not attend Mass on Sundays. “Everyone else was at church, and I wasn’t,” he recalled in an interview last week. “Some of the kids envied me.”

His mother, a lapsed Catholic, had little interest in organised religion, and de Blasio inherited her skepticism. To this day, he belongs to no church and prefers to call himself “spiritual” rather than religious.

Yet as the leader of a famously secular city, de Blasio has been emerging as something unexpected: a champion of religion whose administration has advanced the cause of faith groups in the unlikeliest of public squares.

In de Blasio’s New York: Public pre-kindergarten classes will soon be able to include a midday break for observant students to pray; schools will be closed citywide for two Muslim holy days; he is poised to relax health regulations governing a controversial circumcision ritual that is favored by some ultra-Orthodox Jews.

De Blasio also says he is intent on finding a way for church groups to continue holding services in public schools on weekends, even as the US Supreme Court considers taking up a case as early as next week on whether the city has the right to prohibit the practice.

In finding novel ways to commingle church and State, de Blasio, a Democrat, has carved himself a niche as a more inclusive kind of liberal, one who is willing to embrace religious groups rather than treat them as adversaries.

His moves have put him at odds with some of his usual allies, like civil libertarians, who are increasingly uneasy with what they consider to be an aggressive redefining of the proper separation between the secular and the devout.

FULL STORY New York City’s unlikely voice for religion: a secular mayor

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