A national association of freethinkers is asking New York Governor Kathy Hochul to stop treating her “bully pulpit” like an actual church pulpit and tone down the religious rhetoric over Covid-19 vaccinations.
In Hochul’s “sermon” on Sunday at the Christian Cultural Center, she cited Jesus in asking the vaccinated “to be my apostles,” and promised, “God will keep his promise to you.” She credited “God” and prayer, including her own prayer, with vaccination breakthroughs.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a national state/church watchdog representing 35,000 members, including nearly 2,000 in New York State, reacted by asking Hochul to refrain from using her public office in future to make “proselytizing and exclusionary religious remarks.”
While agreeing in principle with Hochul’s pro-vaccination message, FFRF took issue with many of her over-the-top religious statements, such as telling young people, “God let you survive this pandemic because he wants you to do great things someday. He let you live through this when so many other people did not ...:”
By logical conclusion, as FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor wrote her, she appears to be insensitively saying that “‘God’ did not want ‘great things’ for the 1 in 500 Americans who have died in the pandemic.”
Hochul also credited a deity with “making” the “smartest men and women . . . come up with a vaccine. This is from God to us and we must say, Thank you, God.” The FFRF leaders reminded her that “the vaccine did not come on high, like manna, from a deity” and that it is the “heroic scientists, doctors and researchers” who deserve the praise.
While agreeing that the inoculated should act like “secular evangelists” to spread the good news about how vaccinations protect health, FFRF says Hochul has crossed the line from educating about the vaccine to proselytizing. She is also assuming her constituents are all Christian. In fact, 35 percent of Americans today are non-Christian, with 1 in 4 of Americans having no religious affiliation.
The association found some other common ground with Hochul when she called vaccinated Americans “the smart ones.” But they took care to point out that Pew research shows atheists are the most vaccinated segment in the United States, and white Christian evangelicals the least vaccinated.
While applauding Hochul’s commitment to vaccination, FFRF says it is a misuse of her public office to anoint herself as “God’s emissary” telling New York citizens what “God” wants. Hochul needs to stand up as much for the separation of religion and government as she is standing up for vaccinations.