Between Church and State: NYC Mayoral Appointee Jonathan Soto on the Bilateral Value of Faith and Civic Engagement

August 22, 2017


Our Guest: 


This time on "Interfaith Matters," host Maggi Van Dorn talks with Jonathan Soto, executive director of Mayor Bill de Blasio's newly-formed Center for Faith and Community Partnerships.   The center is designed to transform the way faith and other community organizations access city services.  We discuss why collaboration between faith communities and local government is not a violation of the First Amendment, but is essential to protect freedom, and help citizens in need. Jonathan will be one of the experts working with faith leaders in ICNY's upcoming "Interfaith Civic Leadership Academy."


Podcast Highlights:


On the importance of connecting faith communities with local government: “A house of worship could be the first institution a person interacts with when they come to this city or this country for the first time. It’s an important step, especially as it relates to services, to ensure that houses of worship are really well-resourced, and well connected to city services.”  


On why faith community outreach helps protect city services: “There can be a policy argument that services should be cut because people aren’t using them, while in reality what’s happening is that government isn’t doing a very good job of letting people know these services are available.”  


On what faith leaders will gain from the upcoming Interfaith Civic Leadership Academy: “Government is like a labyrinth, and it’s hard to navigate it if you don’t know the language. My hope is that [the Academy will] make the language accessible, and we can be open about ways to engage intentionally and collaboratively in order to maximize the benefit government can provide to people.”


On protecting religious liberty for others: “There is no religious liberty if we elevate one perspective over the other. If my Muslim sister or brother doesn't have religious freedom, then I don't have religious freedom. We give up a lot of our power when we work in silos.  But we maximize our power when we engage in collaborative action and work together." 




  • Faith community leaders interested in joining the Weekend of Action, or who would like to connect with the Center for Faith and Community Partnerships, please contact Jonathan Soto directly at
  • The “Access HRA” app is a new online portal from New York City’s Human Resources Administration.  People in your community can use the app to apply online for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Cash Assistance, Medicaid renewal, manage benefits, read agency notices. It’s available on iPhone and Google Play Stores or click here. 
  • The "Interfaith Civic Leadership Academy" (ICLA):



Beginning in November 2017, ICNY will sponsor 20 faith community leaders to participate in evening training workshops on a bi-monthly basis in civic engagement, legal literacy, and community organizing. These workshops will be led by expert partners including: The Center for Court Innovation, Faith in New York, The Mayor’s Community Affairs Unit, CUNY CLEAR as well as the NYPD.

Individual participants will each receive a $1,000 stipend + seed funding for community projects.

The application deadline is October 2, 2017


Program details and application info is available at

For more info, email Iman Boukadoum or call 212.870.3515.




Podcast Questions? Comments?


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