A popular Tehachapi preschool has been cited by the state for an incident involving praying before meals. Because the preschool is part of a church, the issue wasn’t really about asking students to pray, it was what the preschooler said happened when they refused to participate.
Sonshine Place Preschool has been running for nearly 35 years as part of the church of Nazarene in Tehachapi. In December, the California Department of Social Services Community Care Licensing Board investigated a complaint that a child’s lunch was withheld when they wouldn’t participate in a prayer.
Staff said the child was asked to not eat lunch until after prayer, according to reports released by the Department of Social Services. Reports also say some children attending the preschool believed quote “if I don’t pray, I don’t eat”.
The school was issued a citation but received no penalties. Senior Pastor Robert Brooks wasn’t aware of the situation until we asked about it today, but said there haven’t been any similar issues since.
“It’s just something we’re gonna do as a Christian school, pray for our food, but if you’re not wanting to do that right now, you’re still gonna get your lunch for sure,” said Pastor Brooks.
Pastor Brooks says if a child doesn’t want to pray, they’ll just be asked to wait to eat until the prayer is done. “I don’t think the state can tell us whether we can pray or not but if it’s an issue whether or not a child is going to be fed absolutely, absolutely they’re there for the welfare of our children, the welfare of our people, so if that’s what they felt, further training make sure that that’s not occurring, we want to make sure that that’s not occurring also.”
Reports show the preschool submitted a plan to the state to make all religious activities a choice, not a demand for students.