RELIGION

NYC's plan to allow prayer breaks in pre-kindergarten classes raises church-state concerns

  • Joey Arking, 5, left, Moshe Lib, 4, second from left,  Michael Skaba, 4, second from right and Leo Jajati, 4, play on the rooftop playground at the Al & Sonny Gindi Barkai Yeshivah in Brooklyn, New York, Wednesday, March 11, 2015. Starting next September, New York City pre-K classes will be permitted to break in the middle of the day for “non-program” activities such as prayer. Civil liberties groups say the prayer break in a publicly funded classroom may violate the constitutional separation of church and state.  (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

    Joey Arking, 5, left, Moshe Lib, 4, second from left, Michael Skaba, 4, second from right and Leo Jajati, 4, play on the rooftop playground at the Al & Sonny Gindi Barkai Yeshivah in Brooklyn, New York, Wednesday, March 11, 2015. Starting next September, New York City pre-K classes will be permitted to break in the middle of the day for “non-program” activities such as prayer. Civil liberties groups say the prayer break in a publicly funded classroom may violate the constitutional separation of church and state. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)  (The Associated Press)

  • Leo Jajati, 4, right, and Michael Skaba, 4, play on the rooftop playground at the Al & Sonny Gindi Barkai Yeshivah in Brooklyn, New York, Wednesday, March 11, 2015. Starting next September, New York City pre-K classes will be permitted to break in the middle of the day for “non-program” activities such as prayer. Civil liberties groups say the prayer break in a publicly funded classroom may violate the constitutional separation of church and state.  (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

    Leo Jajati, 4, right, and Michael Skaba, 4, play on the rooftop playground at the Al & Sonny Gindi Barkai Yeshivah in Brooklyn, New York, Wednesday, March 11, 2015. Starting next September, New York City pre-K classes will be permitted to break in the middle of the day for “non-program” activities such as prayer. Civil liberties groups say the prayer break in a publicly funded classroom may violate the constitutional separation of church and state. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)  (The Associated Press)

  • Elyse Dweck, 4, right, and Joey Arking, 5, raise their hands in their pre-kindergarten class at the Al & Sonny Gindi Barkai Yeshivah in Brooklyn, New York, Wednesday, March 11, 2015. Starting next September, New York City pre-K classes will be permitted to break in the middle of the day for “non-program” activities such as prayer. Civil liberties groups say the prayer break in a publicly funded classroom may violate the constitutional separation of church and state.  (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

    Elyse Dweck, 4, right, and Joey Arking, 5, raise their hands in their pre-kindergarten class at the Al & Sonny Gindi Barkai Yeshivah in Brooklyn, New York, Wednesday, March 11, 2015. Starting next September, New York City pre-K classes will be permitted to break in the middle of the day for “non-program” activities such as prayer. Civil liberties groups say the prayer break in a publicly funded classroom may violate the constitutional separation of church and state. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)  (The Associated Press)

The leader of a group that champions the separation of church and state says a plan to permit a midday prayer break in some publicly funded New York City prekindergarten classes is "asking for a lawsuit."

The controversy comes as Mayor Bill de Blasio aims to expand his signature initiative to offer full-day pre-K classes for every 4-year-old. The plan depends in part on the participation of Jewish, Christian and Muslim schools.

Starting next September, pre-K classes will be permitted to break in the middle of the day for "non-program" activities such as prayer.

Additionally, schools will be invited to operate six days a week in order to meet the minimum number of classroom hours.

Civil liberties groups say the prayer break in a publicly funded classroom may violate the constitutional separation of church and state.