Sen. Cruz Applauds DOJ Rebuke of Mayor Bill De Blasios Targeting of Orthodox Jewish Community in New York City
Reprimand follows Sen. Cruzs letter urging DOJ investigate local officials abusing power and religious discrimination
HOUSTON, Texas - Late last week, the Department of Justice (DOJ) rebuked New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio in a letter for his targeting of the Jewish community during the coronavirus pandemic, including threats to permanently shut down houses of worship. And just today a federal judge ruled that Mayor De Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo have violated the Constitution, and struck down coronavirus lockdown orders that have prevented outdoor and indoor religious activity.
In the letter to the Mayor, the DOJ encouraged De Blasio to "reconsider" his posture toward religious gatherings, and to afford "gatherings for religious exercise the same respect," he affords peaceful protests:
"In light of your support for and participation in recent protests in New York City, the message to the public from New York City's government appears to favor certain secular gatherings and disfavor religious gatherings. As the City moves into Phase 2, the Department of Justice respectfully encourages you to reconsider your posture toward religious gatherings and, as necessary, work with Governor Cuomo to that end. [...] The Department of Justice does not seek to dictate how New York City sets its enforcement priorities. But in doing so, we urge you to afford gatherings for religious exercise the same respect that you afford gatherings to exercise other First Amendment rights."
Upon news of the DOJ's letter, Sen. Cruz said:
"I'm grateful the Department of Justice is taking threats to religious liberty during this pandemic seriously. Obviously this is a time of enormous crisis for our country, and local, state, and federal officials have a responsibility to protect public health. However - those measures should be applied fairly - and cannot become an excuse for officials to exercise authoritarianism against the communities they serve."
As news reports have highlighted, state and local officials in New York have held a double-standard during the pandemic - often participating in large-scale protests while refusing to allow religious communities to gather:
- "In New York City, groups much larger than ten people - the limit de Blasio set for non-essential gatherings - have not been broken up by law enforcement, the suit notes. Days later, a group of Hasidic Jewish children was kicked out of a park in Williamsburg by a police officer for not abiding by the ten-person limit."
- "Even as mass protests were allowed to take place across the state, people of faith were targeted with threats of criminal prosecution and $1000 fines for violating the restrictions on group gatherings, the suit alleges."
- "New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has openly supported the protests, has been widely criticized for his treatment of the Jewish community during the pandemic. In April, he specifically mentioned the Jewish community while threatening New Yorkers with arrest if they gathered in large groups."
- "Although New York City had clamped down on organized gatherings and had only loosened restrictions to allow 10 people in a synagogue, the Orthodox Jewish community took exception when de Blasio himself participated with thousands of people at recent demonstrations protesting the death of George Floyd."
Since the coronavirus outbreak occurred in the U.S., Sen. Cruz has warned against the dangers of "pandemic authoritarianism" and urged state and local leaders to protect Americans' civil liberties as we all work together to combat the deadly virus. Read Sen. Cruz's op-ed in the New York Post here. Read Sen. Cruz's letter to AG Barr here.