Bill de Blasio

Potential Lawsuit Over Prayer in Private NYC Pre-K

It appears that several lawsuits may be pending should NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio allow prayer to be incorporated into a publicly funded universal pre-kindergarden program held at private religious schools across the city.

The notion of universal pre-k has been at the core of de Blasio’s mayorship since his early days in office. As de Blasio understands it, providing a free universal pre-k program to all of New York City’s 4-year-olds would serve the city in a number of ways. ABC News reports that de Blassio hopes that such an early educational program would narrow the city’s wealth gap as well as provide an early educational jump start to the young residents of New York City.

Mayor de Blasio’s universal pre-k plan has not been received neatly by all New Yorkers however. In 2014, there was much debate over the progression of the univeral pre-k plan given that no one was entirely certain where the funding for such a program would come from.

The latest set of attacks on de Blasio’s proposal now circles around the rhetorical line of separation of church and state. According to the aforementioned ABC News article, de Blasio’s latest plan for the continued implementation of his universal pre-k plan provides public funding to religious schools for opening up free pre-k classes. The mere use of public funds by religious institutions does not serve as the source of this latest controversy however.

The latest controversy hovering over de Blasio’s educational plan stems from the permitting of “non-program activities” such as prayer or religious instruction, reports ABC News.

Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State talked to ABC News in regard to the de Blasio’s latest proposal.

“It’s kind of like waving a red flag in front of a bull…This seems to be asking for a lawsuit.”

The idea of public money going to fund groups that offer religious instruction rarely fails to spark heated lines of legally-centered public discourse. The view that their should be a wall of separation between established religion and American governance is held closely by many Americans despite the fact that the term “separation of church and state” appears nowhere in the U.S. Constitution. The term “separation of church and state” first appears in the American-political dialect in an 1802 letter from Thomas Jefferson to Nehemiah Dodge, Ephraim Robbins, & Stephen S. Nelson, a committee of the Danbury Baptist association in the State of Connecticut.

Judges in the State of New York however, may soon be called upon to decide whether or not de Blasio’s latest provision to his universal pre-k program offends this adopted policy of separation of church and state.

[Featured Image credit to Crain’s New York Business]

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