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Kentucky Court
Asked To Cut Public Funding From Anti-Gay Religious Group

Kentucky Court
Asked To Cut Public Funding From Anti-Gay Religious Group

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The American Civil Liberties Union and the Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed an appeal Thursday to strip federal funding from Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children, a public child care institution that allegedly religiously indoctrinates children and discriminates against LGBT people in their hiring practices. "We strongly believe that any group taking public funds should not discriminate in hiring or proselytize," said Joe Conn, press contact for Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. "Kentucky Baptist Homes takes buckets of public funds, yet they still try to indoctrinate the children in their care."

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed an appeal Thursday to strip federal funding from Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children, a public child care institution that allegedly religiously indoctrinates children and discriminates against LGBT people in their hiring practices.

"We strongly believe that any group taking public funds should not discriminate in hiring or proselytize," said Joe Conn, press contact for Americans United. "Kentucky Baptist Homes takes buckets of public funds, yet they still try to indoctrinate the children in their care."

The brief that was filed detailed information about how the institution attempted to influence children's religious beliefs, including court statements from the children describing how they were forced to attend Baptist services and forbidden from practicing their own religion. It also outlined how KBHC explicitly stated in its hiring policies that under no circumstances would the organization hire anyone who was known to be gay or lesbian. "Homosexuality is a lifestyle that would prohibit employment," read the policy.

According to senior litigation counsel Alex Luchenitser, "It's discrimination supported by public money" that takes advantage of "the rights of taxpayers and lesbian and gay people."

While it is legal for private religious institutions to take faith-based beliefs into consideration in their hiring and firing practices, according to the lawsuit, KBHC should have refrained from allowing those choices to be influenced by religion once they began accepting federal funding.

The lawsuit, which was originally filed back in 2000, contends that the public funding allocated to KBHC is being used for religious purposes and is therefore violating the Constitution. The suit has been twice dismissed based on legal technicalities.

The process began nearly 10 years ago when former family specialist Alicia Pedreira was fired from KBHC after a photograph of Pedreira and her partner participating in an AIDS walk was displayed at the Kentucky State Fair and noted by Pedreira's coworkers, who then reported it to their supervisor.

The termination statement Pedreira received from the KBHC read that she was "being terminated...because her admitted homosexual lifestyle is contrary to Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children core values" despite her excellent performance reviews. According to Luchenitser, "[Pedreira] worked very well with the children and the children loved her."

In a press statement, Pedreira said, "It was unfair to be fired for being a lesbian. It's not right that an organization that is funded by state and federal dollars to do work for the state can get away with this."

A public statement from KBHC released soon after Pedreira was dismissed defended its actions, saying, "It is important that we stay true to our Christian values."

Eight other individuals joined Pedreira in the lawsuit filed against KBHC, first in July of 2001 and then again in March of this year. Luchenitser is hopeful that the third time will be the charm for this case. "We're fairly optimistic that we'll prevail," he said, adding, "You never know what the court's going to do."

KBHC could not be reached for comment for this article. (Hannah Clay Wareham, The Advocate)

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