FFRF monitors pre-K in West Virginia

A May 9 FFRF complaint to Berkley County Schools about religious activity at New Beginnings Child Care Center in Inwood, W.Va., resulted in clarification by State Superintendent of Schools Charles Heinlein that pre-K providers must steer clear of religion. The center provides state-funded pre-K four days a week, then offers a fifth day which includes religious instruction.

Staff Attorney Patrick Elliott said that’s confusing for children too young to distinguish public from religious education. Heinlein’s Aug. 5 reply largely concurred with FFRF’s letter but didn’t agree with the objection to religious images, including a cross on the New Beginnings sign.

Heinlein wrote that “no State funds may be used to purchase or maintain them and they may not be included or alluded to during conversation or instruction during the WV Pre-K program.” He said religious images are otherwise permissible. 

FFRF contends he’s wrong and that all pre-K classes must be held in a secular environment. “Facilities used to teach public school students have to be secular. This is a bedrock constitutional principle that is not erased merely because classes are held in a nontraditional setting,” said Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.

Freedom From Religion Foundation