Turning Point USA's New York Faith Hub hosted their innuagural event on Feb. 3 which brought together faith leaders at the Metropolitan Republican Club in Manhattan to discuss the impacts of COVID-19 lockdowns, restrictions, and mandates on religious groups and institutions.
The event featured Rabbi Aaron Mehlman of Congregation Ohav Sholom in Manhattan and Rabbinic Chaplain for the NYPD, Pastor Andy Woodward of Manor Community Church, Reverend Cait Corrigan who serves as co-chair to the Spiritual Advisory Committee for Children's Health Defense, and The Post Millennial’s West Coast editor Ari Hoffman, radio host on Talk Radio 570 KVI.
Several candidates for office including New York gubernatorial candidate Andrew Giuliani, son of former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani, were also in attendence.
Rafi Metz, secretary for the Faith Hub, moderated the panel, prompting the speakers with questions about religious freedom and how each panelist's religion helped them cope with various aspects of COVID-19.
Rabbi Mehlman's discussed the joys of daily group prayer at synagogue and jested about being an "endangered species" as a politicly conservative Rabbi in New York City. "It's astounding to think that everyone in the room that night had ancestors who fled from their countries of origin to come here for Religious Freedom and were very proud to do that. They worked very hard for it and slaved away for years and years to come to America, a bastion of Religious Freedom and today there is a complete erosion where you can't speak up and you can't talk about your Religion because of the liberal media day and night."
"It's incredible the fact that we have to hide our faces [referencing masks and being conservatives] but tonight is a turnaround, a true turning point for the future and that is why we are assembled … We will not allow others to tear down everything that is holy and sacrosanct in America for all faiths. We should not lose our desire but on the contrary, we will take back our Country and our Religious Freedoms starting today."
Pastor Woodward discussed the history of his Church and Christians that advocated for Freedom of Religion. "In European denominations such as Anglicanism and other Christian traditions they had state churches. Then the Baptist came and said, 'Wait a second. We have some issues with the book of common prayer so we want to worship according to our conscience instead of under the authority of the King.' That's where his religious liberty traces back to in a historical sense so it's very important to him to recognize the fact that his beliefs are not mandated by the King of England but from Higher up above."
Cait Corrigan, who also serves on the Board to The Religious Society for a Separation of Church & State and is an Ordained Christian Minister, who is also running to become the youngest member of Congress, conveyed last night that religious freedom in America protects the Religious and the non-religious.
"One thing you can see across all different Faiths is the importance of moral consciousness. If you are called and believe that doing something is the right thing to do then you must do it. Alternatively, if you believe that doing something is the wrong thing to do then you must not do it. One thing that's very interesting to see about the restrictions on Religious Freedom [not only with Churches and other religious institutions being closed with the unconstitutional lockdowns] is to specifically talk about our religious exemptions being denied."
"It's very interesting to see that college students were first with the vaccine mandates. Religious exemptions were looked at closely to see if they were deemed worthy enough. In America, it doesn't matter what your religious belief is and if you hold true to that belief then that's valid. Your religion is between you and your G-D, your Higher Power, you and the Divine. So the concept of your school and your employer not accepting that is a huge and major violation of one's Religious Freedom."
Ari Hoffman, who has also has served on boards for multiple Jewish nonprofits and schools, said he was raised on stories about Jews that had to smuggle potatoes into concentration camps to make a menorah to celebrate Chanukah in Germany under the Nazis or had to hide Torah study under the Romans but "…what do we have? We had the flu! So, we closed all the Synagogues, stopped having weddings and funerals."
"We played dreidel so we could pretend to be doing that as opposed to learning scripture when the Assyrian soldiers came. But now the flu came! On the converse side of that, we must do anything we can to save a Jewish life. This means protecting those that were at risk."
"But wait one minute, now we can't go to Synagogue? They are shutting that down? Something is not right here. The exact moment things changed and people realized that this is something political as opposed to following science was when they said, 'You can't go to weddings, you can't go to Synagogues, you can't go to Church, you can't go to a Mosque and any of those places but you can go protest for racial justice by the thousands. No funerals for family but protests are allowed.'"
The discussion continued for hours in front of an enraptured audience.
Ari Barnett, vice president of the TPUSA NY Faith Hub, conveyed that he hoped that the attendance would grow with each event to build a voice as a group that fights for religious freedom. In addition, he said that in times of challenges turning to our faith is the most important factor to keep society and people together.
Joseph Scutts, treasurer of Turning Point NY Faith Hub said, "It has always an integral part of my life to be a staunch right wing Zionist who loves Israel. It is also very important to me because my Conservative values are aligned 100 percent with my Zionistic ideals."
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