Faith and New York Politics

Residents of New York are ambivalent towards religion. They do not care which religion their elected representative follows. Voters in the eastern part of Queens have elected Dan Halloran, a heathen in the 2009 elections. Halloran followed Theodism, a neo-Pagan religion. He served his constituency for four years, until he got convicted for his plan to buy ballot spot for a particular mayoral candidate. There is one line most politicians are unwilling to cross- the line separating those who believe in a God and who does not. Not only city politicians but also staffers and/or members of the 51 member Council are afraid to lose their electability or post for professing Godlessness. There is a question mark on whether an atheist may actually get elected even in New York City, an ultra-liberal metropolis by any means.

Nones and atheists

This is surprising as the number of Nones in America is growing at a fast clip. About 25 percent of the population, both in New York City and in the whole of United States identify themselves as “Nothing in particular” or Nones. These Nones are an undeniable part of New York, arguably one of the most diverse cities in America. As per a 2014 research study, atheists are much more rare, now calculated to be a little more than three percent. Among the politicians representing their electoral districts, atheists are non-existent.

Mark Levine, a City Councilman, who identifies himself as Jewish, said that even in liberal cities like New York, it is not a good idea to identify one as an atheist. Levine's view is echoed by Letitia James, a  Public Advocate in New York. She said atheism could be a problem in a few communities. The lack of belief in God could turn out to be a decisive issue. Ritchie Torres, a city councilman, said identifying oneself as an atheist would cause more harm than good in politics.

Religion weight

Religion truly has an important role. Ruben Diaz Sr. and Fernando Cabrera are Christian pastors. Eric Ulrich, a City Councilman, was once on a path to be a Catholic priest. Any and every City Council meeting starts with an invocation. This is normally given by a religious leader. A council member invites that leader. There were efforts to stop this practice, but nothing succeeded. Members are even afraid to stop this practice even if they are uncomfortable.

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