We are aware that on Friday, June 26, a U.S. District Judge issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting the New York State government from ordering or enforcing any arbitrary limits placed upon religious gatherings held in outdoor or indoor venues.
We are also aware of news reports that are revealing a disturbing and dramatic rise in the number of Covid-19 cases throughout the United States. The increasing number of positive tests and hospitalizations in dozens of states many times can be attributed to ill-advised gatherings of people who are worshipping indoors and often not engaging in proper social distancing, nor employing recommended sanitation measures, or participating in the disciplined use of face masks covering mouth and nose. After much sacrifice New York infections have stabilized.
As leaders of religious communities and organizations throughout the State of New York motivated by religious convictions and our faith in God to be good stewards of person and communities, we will endeavor to prevent another increase and unite with a common voice to state the following:
- We will always rely on the analysis of facts and the expertise of medical professionals and scientists to helping us determine when and how to reopen or scale back observances in our sanctuaries, temples, mosques and other worship settings
- We depend upon the centralized and focused leadership of those in our state government to provide uniform messaging, standards and protocols for the safe and timely reopening of our state, including all houses of worship;
- We will abide by the guidance from New York state government and health officials and welcome the intentional steps they have provided for conducting religious and funeral services found within the NY Forward Guidelines;
- While we recognize the importance of our First Amendment right to freedom of religion, we as faith leaders also understand the importance of keeping our worshiping members and those we serve safe. A pandemic is no respecter of persons in that no group of people have been exempted from its effects, yet groups (i.e. African Americans, Latinx, persons) have been even more vulnerable, and infected at higher rates. Therefore, this is the time to prioritize the health and safety of all New Yorkers, especially those in high risk categories amongst those who need or want the religious or social services we provide;
- Likewise, we urge our brother and sister religious leaders to comply with the consistent and data driven advice of the overwhelming majority of virus scientists and public health officials and follow New York State’s public health emergency experts in curtailing the ill effects of the pandemic.
As religious leaders we celebrate the opportunity to be participants with other leaders in the State of New York as we lessen the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Because of the uncertain nature of the virus and pandemic as well as the reality that we often minister to highly vulnerable and disproportionately affected constituencies as well as in settings that often include activities in the highest transmission risk categories, such as singing, we do not wish to see our houses of worship and other worship spaces placed into any exempt category. We don’t wish to be treated in any way different than other businesses or gatherings that assemble people in venues where their health may be adversely affected.
We invite and urge all New York religious leaders, lay and ordained, from all faith communities in their abundant diversity, to join us in creating a consistent witness of the value we place on a human life that is equal to the value we place on the care of a human body and soul.
We stand with Governor Cuomo in stating that, as religious leaders, we too are New York Tough, Smart, Disciplined, and most of all, loving.
Love thy Neighbor – wear a mask, social distance and practice good hygiene.
Bishop. Thomas J. Bickerton
Resident Bishop, The New York Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church
The Reverend Dr. Chloe Breyer
Executive Director, Interfaith Center of New York
The Reverend Peter Cook
Executive Director, New York State Council of Churches
The Reverend Que English
Senior Pastor, Bronx Christian Fellowship
Peter B. Gudaitis, M.Div.
Executive Director & CEO, New York Disaster Interfaith Services
Bishop John Macholz
Upstate New York Conference, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America
Rabbi Joseph Potasnik
Executive Vice President, New York Board of Rabbis
Pastor James Richmond, Community Liaison
Seventh Day Adventist Church
Jeffrey Aaron, Presiding Clerk, Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
Azhar Azzez, VP of Community Affairs, Islamic Relief USA
The Reverend Larry J Beasley, Presbytery Leader and Stated Clerk, Presbytery of Utica
The Reverend Karen Cronenberger-Chamis, Resource Presbyter, Presbytery of Cayuga-Syracuse
The Right Reverend Andrew ML Dietsche, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New York
The Reverend Cheryl Dudley, Regional Minister, American Baptist Churches of Metropolitan New York
The Right Reverend Dr. DeDe Duncan-Probe, Bishop of The Episcopal Diocese of Central New York
The Reverend Paul Egensteiner, Bishop, Metropolitan New York Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America
The Reverend Dr. Robert Foltz-Morrison, Executive Presbyter, Presbytery of New York City
The Reverend David Gaewksi, Conference Minister, New York Conference, United Church of Christ
The Right Reverend Mary Glasspool, Bishop Assistant, Episcopal Diocese of New York
The Reverend Gottschalk-Fielding, Director of Connectional Ministries, Upper New York Conference, United Methodist Church
Dr. James Kelsey, Executive Minister, American Baptist Churches of New York State
Imam Tahir Kukaj, Albanian Islamic Cultural Center
The Reverend Rebecca Lawson Putman, Stated Clerk, Albany Presbytery
The Reverend James Lynch, President, Buddhist Council of New York
Steve Mohlke, General Secretary, New York Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
Dr. Uma Mysorekar, Hindu Temple Society of North America
The Reverend Abby Norton Levering, Ministries Coordinator, Regional Synod of Albany, Reformed Church of America
Elder Susan B. Orr, Presbytery Leader, Presbytery of Geneva and Acting Presbytery Leader, Presbytery of Genesee Valley
The Right Reverend Lawrence Provenzano, Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Long Island
The Right Reverend Sean Rowe, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Western New York
The Right Reverend. Allen K. Shin, Bishop Suffragan. The Episcopal Diocese of New York
The Right Reverend Prince Singh, Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Rochester
The Reverend Mark Tammen, General Presbyter and Stated Clerk, Presbytery of Long Island
The Reverend Marie Tatro, Vicar for Community Justice Ministry, Episcopal Diocese of Long Island
Bishop Mark Webb, Bishop, Upper New York Conference, United Methodist Church
Rabbi Jeremy Wiederhorn, President, The New York Board of Rabbis
The Reverend Dustin Wright, President, New York State Council of Churches