New York City Mayor Threatens to ‘Permanently’ Close Places of Worship That Resist Shutdown Order

March 30, 2020 Updated: March 30, 2020

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio threatened to “permanently” close churches and other places of worship that decline to follow the city’s order to stop holding services.

Referencing social distancing guidelines, the city issued in response to the CCP virus pandemic, de Blasio said a number of churches and synagogues have shifted services online or to the radio.

“A small number of religious communities, specific churches, specific synagogues are unfortunately not paying attention to this guidance even though it’s been so widespread,” the former Democratic presidential contender said at a press conference on Friday.

“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.”

Epoch Times Photo
A woman reads a CCP virus notice seen at St John Nepomucene Church in New York City on March 15, 2020. (Cindy Ord/Getty Images)

The mayor said he didn’t want to direct law enforcement to force the closure of places of worship but “we do not need gatherings that will endanger people.”

New York Police Department officers, Fire Department of New York firefighters, and officials at the Buildings Department who witness worship services taking place have been told to tell the congregational leaders that they must stop the services and disperse, according to the mayor.

“If that does not happen, they will take additional action up to the point of fines and potentially closing the building permanently,” he added. “I am sorry I have to tell you this, but anyone who’s hearing this, take this seriously. You’ve been warned, you need to stop services, help people practice their faith in different ways.”

The Epoch Times refers to the novel coronavirus, which causes the COVID-19 disease, as the CCP virus because the Chinese Communist Party’s coverup and mismanagement allowed the virus to spread throughout China before it was transmitted worldwide.

Epoch Times Photo
A Bible phrase from the book of Isaiah adorns the outside of church in New York City on March 12, 2020. (Jeenah Moon/Getty Images)

Leaders of six New York area Orthodox congregations said in a joint statement (pdf) earlier this month that COVID-19 presents a “mortal threat,” urging “full compliance with all health guidelines issued by federal, state, and local governments.”

“We have taken the unprecedented and deeply distressing step of shuttering the central fixtures of our lives—our shuls, yeshivos, and schools—and certainly to eliminate other gatherings,” they wrote. “We have done so because as observant Jews, we have an obligation to place supreme value on protecting human life.”

More than 50 percent of new virus cases are occurring in the New York area.

De Blasio announced harsher enforcement of all social distancing guidelines on Sunday, telling reporters that New Yorkers who violate police orders to break up public gatherings will receive fines of $500.

“I don’t want to fine people when so many folks are going through economic distress, but if they haven’t gotten the message by now, and they don’t get the message when an enforcement officer’s staring them in the face … that person then deserves the fine, so we’re going to proceed with that,” he said.

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber