Clerk's School Prayer Sparks Controversy

A "freedom from religion" group is upset over city clerk's call for school prayer.

A new battle is brewing in New Haven in the debate over the separation of church and state. 

The New Haven Register reports that the story is coming under fire.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, which describes itself as a national watchdog for the separation of church and state, sent a letter to Mayor John DeStefano that condemns Smith for calling for school prayer as a way to fight crime.

In his speech, Smith declared, "You want crime to go away? Put prayer back in schools.” 

"Mr. Smith's comment is offensive, incorrect, and would be unconstitutional if put into practice," Annie Laurie Gaylor, of the Wisconsin-based group wrote in a letter to the mayor. “In claiming that prayer would lower crime, Mr. Smith is implying that non-believers are criminals — an idea that is at once insulting and ignorant." 

Smith, however is standing by his comments that prayer will help restore peace in the streets. 

“We have to let God in, instead of keeping him out. When we put prayer back in school I believe you will see a change,” Smith told the Register. 

He said students of different religions should be able to pray in their own way. 

In a statement, Mayor DeStefano said the city has no plans to incorporate prayer into public schools, the Day said. 

“That being said, I do believe the religious community can play a positive role in engaging young people and in providing positive outlets and support for students outside of school,” he said.

When Gaylor learned of the mayors comments, she said, “I’m just goin’ to say ‘amen’ to that.”

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