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Kentucky Lawsuit Settlement Requires Foster Homes to Disclose Religious Affiliations

The American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State said a Kentucky court case calling for taxpayer-funded residential childcare providers in the state to disclose their religious affiliations has been settled.

The suit, filed more than 20 years ago, was filed to protect children in the state’s care from “unwanted religious proselytization and discrimination,” the ACLU said in a statement.

Plaintiffs in the case included Alicia Pedreira, whom the ACLU said was fired in 1998 by Sunrise Children’s Services (formerly Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children) because she is a lesbian.

U.S. District Judge Charles R. Simpson III dismissed the case, filed in 2000, at the request of the plaintiffs and state officials, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported.

Sunrise Children’s Services, which is controlled by the Kentucky Baptist Convention, opposed the settlement, and will appeal the decision to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court, per the Courier-Journal. 

The state agreed in the settlement to inform children to be placed in residential care and their parents of the religious affiliation of a proposed facility, and to provide an alternative placement if they object. Children also will be given the opportunity to consent to religious items being displayed in their rooms and cannot be given religious materials unless they request them.

 “This agreement is a victory for religious liberty and will help ensure that state taxpayer dollars are not used to underwrite religious indoctrination,” said Daniel Mach, director of the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief.

Parts of the settlement are contingent on the new guidelines being codified into new or amended state regulations, the ACLU said. 

The state of Kentucky earlier this year reached a contract agreement with Sunrise giving the agency the right to decline openly gay couples as foster or adoptive parents, recognizing the Baptist Convention’s view of homosexuality as a sin. Sunrise agreed to refer any couples who identified as LGBTQ to other agencies. 

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Anne Stych

Anne Stych is a writer in Charlotte, North Carolina.