LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Uncertainty over a short-lived proposal to open employment to gays at Kentucky’s largest private child care agency prompted many of its supportive churches to withhold giving last year, causing a multi-million dollar shortfall.
Sunrise Children’s Services depends on giving from Baptist congregations in Kentucky, along with government funding. But Kentucky Baptist Convention executive director Paul Chitwood said those offerings dried up last year because donors were concerned that the proposal to allow gay workers might succeed.
The Sunrise board ultimately rejected the proposal introduced by Bill Smithwick, then CEO of Sunrise. But the flap left the agency that cares daily for about 600 children with a funding shortfall of about $7.5 million.
“Most of our churches decided not to take the annual offering for Sunrise because they feared that Smithwick was going to lead Sunrise away from” the Kentucky Baptist Convention, Chitwood said. The state convention, which is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention and has about 2,400 member churches in Kentucky, is conservative on social issues and opposes gay marriage.
Article continues belowChitwood and church leaders are hoping congregations statewide will be able to raise about $5 million during a drive in May to make up for the funding gap.
Sunrise operates eight residential centers, three psychiatric residential facilities and serves about 2,000 children annually.
Kentucky does not have a statewide prohibition against anti-gay discrimination in the workplace. A House panel heard testimony Wednesday on a proposed bill, but no vote was taken.
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