Baptist Agency May Fire Lesbian Counselor, but State Funding Is Still Issue
A federal judge in Kentucky has dismissed part of a lawsuit against a Baptist youth agency, ruling that the institution can discriminate against gays, but may not be eligible for public funding.
In a decision likely to become part of the national debate over public funding of "faith-based" social services, Judge Charles Simpson III said state and federal laws barring religious discrimination do not protect gay employees at religious agencies.
Simpson ruled that the Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children (KBHC) did not violate Alicia Pedreira's fights when it fired her in October of 1998 after learning of her homosexuality. Pedreira, who worked as a family specialist at a KBHC facility in Spring Meadows, filed suit in April of 2000, aided by Americans United and the American Civil Liberties Union.
Pedreira was dismissed despite the fact that 75 percent of the Baptist home's $19 million budget in 1999 came from the state government. Sources say only 5 percent of the religious agency's funding came from Baptist churches.
Americans United and the ACLU contend that the Kentucky Baptist Homes forfeited its right to impose religious strictures on employees by accepting government money. Simpson disagreed, noting that federal law bars discrimination on the basis of religion but not sexual orientation.
Simpson, however, did not dismiss the case entirely. He ruled that Americans United and the ACLU could proceed with their claim that government funding of KBHC violates the separation of church and state, as the facility may be found to be "pervasively sectarian."
Americans United issued a statement pointing out that this type of job discrimination will become common if President George W. Bush wins passage of his faith-based initiative.
"This speaks volumes about the kind of activities we'll see if President Bush's faith-based initiative becomes law," said the Rev. …