Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Child Care or Day Camp has been covering the ongoing story of a "daily camp" being run by the Priest Lake Community Baptist Church in Nashville. The program handles up to 150 children aged 5 and under (including newborns), but insists it is not a day-care provider and refuses to register as such. Church officials state they are holding church services for the children from 6 am to 6 pm, and therefore should not be subject to what they refer to as the state's "atheist agenda" in requiring day-care licensing.

There are a couple of kinks in the church's argument. The parents pay a weekly fee for their kids to attend church. These kids are all pre-schoolers. Then there are the guns. Yes, the Priest Lake Community Baptist Church has armed guards patrolling the perimeter of the property. The wear bright orange shirts pulled over their beltline to cover the weapons, and cruise around in golf carts day and night, questioning anyone who ventures onto the grounds. There is also an "extensive surveillance system."

Church spokesman Charles Bennett defends the guards as necessary to protect the children, as being licensed to carry firearms, and as having received extensive firearms training including monthly refreshers. He also stated concern that the local authorities have compromised their security by revealing details to outsiders.

DCS has started a 60 day investigation, but state officials have been barred from the property. The church has continued operating in spite of a restraining order, and church officials are to be served today with a court order to allow inspectors on site.

Earlier articles are here and here.

Posted by Beth Henderson at 9:48 AM