New York City Pre-K ‘Prayer Break’ Initiative Drawing Fire


New York City could soon be bringing prayer back to the classroom.

It’s all part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s initiative to provide free pre-kindergarten programs. It depends in part on the participation of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim schools.

The administration announced that pre-K programs will be allowed to take breaks for “non-program” activities, like prayer, starting in the fall.

Civil liberties groups are already objecting, saying that prayer in a publicly funded classroom violates the U.S. Constitution.

“It’s kind of like waving a red flag in front of a bull,” said Barry Lynn, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Americans United for Separation of Church and State. “This seems to be asking for a lawsuit.”

De Blasio’s program is a way to address his goals of narrowing the wealth gap by saving parents the cost of private pre-K tuition, and jump-starting the academic performance of the city’s children.

It began last fall with 53,000 children, and the goal is to boost that number this year to 70,000.

But some religious schools are also critical of the program, with a major Jewish group saying the pre-K program is too restrictive.

Maury Litwack, director of state political affairs for the Orthodox Union, said the city’s push for full-day pre-K will leave many Jewish schools behind.

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