NEW YORK (PIX11) — Mayor Eric Adams seemingly dismissed the separation of church and state on Tuesday, saying during an interfaith breakfast that his actions are guided by his religious faith.

“Don’t tell me about no separation of church and state,” he said. “State is the body. Church is the heart. You take the heart out of the body, the body dies.”

His remarks caught the attention of New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman, who pointed to the First Amendment to the Constitution. It states, in part, that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”

“It is odd that Mayor Adams would need a refresher on the First Amendment. After all, he has sworn to uphold the Constitution more than once, first as a police officer, later as a state representative, and then last year upon becoming mayor,” Lieberman said. “The very opening passage of the Bill of Rights makes clear that church and state must be separate.”

A spokesperson for Adams said the administration’s policies “are rooted in the mayor’s belief in the creator.”

“The mayor personally believes all of our faiths would ensure we are humane to one another,” spokesperson Fabien Levy said. “While everyone in the room immediately understood what the mayor meant, it’s unfortunate that some have attempted to hijack the narrative in an effort to misrepresent the mayor’s comments.” 

During his remarks, Adams claimed a lack of faith is a cause of homelessness and domestic violence. He addressed the need to instill “some level of faith and belief” in children.

“When we took prayers out of schools, guns came into schools,” he said. 

Adams said he’s a religious man and puts policies in place “with a God-like approach to them.” He described himself as a “servant of God.”

“On matters of faith, the mayor is entitled to his own beliefs,” Lieberman said. “On the Constitution, he must uphold his oath.”

Americans United for Separation of Church and State President and CEO Director Rachel Laser was dismayed by Adams’ remarks. 

“The separation of church and state guarantees Mayor Adams the right to have his personal religious beliefs. But as an elected official, when acting in his official capacity as mayor, he must be a mayor to all New Yorkers,” Laser said. “In New York City – the largest and most religiously diverse city in the United States, where a quarter of the population identifies as nonreligious – the separation of church and state is a necessary shield to protect everyone’s right to live as themselves and believe as they choose.”