Mayor Bill de Blasio is much more willing than his predecessor to blur the lines between City Hall and religious organizations, as the new mayor seems intent on undoing much of what Mayor Michael Bloomberg set out to achieve when it comes to the separation of church and state. NY1's Grace Rauh filed the following report.
Mayor Bill de Blasio is handing over some $38 million in public money to religious organizations to teach pre-K to city 4-year-olds. Religious groups are a key part of his universal pre-kindergarten program.
"There's lots of quality control. There's lots of monitoring," de Blasio said.
De Blasio is also welcoming religious groups that want to worship inside public school buildings when they are not in use. Mayor Michael Bloomberg tried to end the practice.
"A faith-based organization has a right, like anyone else, waiting in line their turn, paying the same amount as any other organization to use that space," de Blasio said.
"We are all better off, I think we've seen that for 200-plus years, of just keeping church and state separate," Bloomberg said in 2013.
The sea change from City Hall when it comes to religious organizations is prompting praise from some New Yorkers and worry from others.
City Councilman Fernando Cabrera, a pastor from the Bronx, said he is pleased with the new approach.
"It's like night and day," Cabrera said. "Mayor de Blasio is very open, very engaging of the religious community."
But Donna Lieberman, the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, is concerned by the administration's willingness to partner with so many religious organizations for its pre-kindergarten expansion.
"It's a real mistake for the de Blasio administration to take a position with the pre-K program that strongly favors certain organized religions without the safeguards that are essential to avoid their being involved in proselytizing on the city's dime," Lieberman said.
Civil libertarians say they will be closely watching City Hall to make sure that any public money sent from the de Blasio administration to religious organizations will not be used to promote religion.