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Ky. Baptist child care agency votes against proposal to allow hiring gays

Ky. Baptist child care agency votes against proposal to allow hiring gays

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The board for a Baptist-affiliated agency that serves abused children in Kentucky has voted against a proposal to allow hiring gay employees.

A statement from Sunrise Children’s Services on Friday said the board of directors voted to maintain its current hiring practice, which informs job applicants that Sunrise does not hire gays.

Sunrise-KYSunrise President Bill Smithwick had proposed the hiring policy change to the board, saying the organization’s state and federal funding could someday be put in jeopardy. Sunrise is the state’s largest private provider of services for abused and neglected children.

Church leaders had argued that Sunrise would be abandoning its conservative religious principles if it opened employment to gays. The agency receives about $1 million a year from Baptist churches, but the vast majority of its funding, about $26 million, comes from government sources.

Kentucky Baptist Convention executive director Paul Chitwood cheered the board’s decision in a blog posting Friday.

“While I know, given where our culture is headed, government funding for Sunrise may someday be in jeopardy, I recommit my personal and financial support, as well as my advocacy” of the agency, Chitwood wrote.

The board meeting Friday was closed to the public.

Sunrise board chairwoman Joyce Smith said in the statement the board’s vote “will not affect the everyday care Sunrise provides to families and children.”

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“With this decision, we are not promoting anything other than the physical, mental, and spiritual welfare of our children,” Smith said.

Last year Sunrise, formerly known as Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children, settled a lawsuit from 2000 that was brought by a former employee who alleged she was fired for religious reasons and claimed the agency was pushing the Baptist faith on children of other religious denominations. The woman, Alicia Pedreira, eventually lost the claim over her firing but Sunrise agreed in the settlement not to discriminate against children on the basis of religion.

Sunrise operates eight residential centers, three psychiatric residential facilities and serves about 2,000 children annually.

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