WASHINGTON (ABP) – The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to review a lower-court ruling allowing Kentucky taxpayers to sue over public funding of a Baptist youth home.
The April 18 order left standing a 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision in a discrimination case stemming from the firing in 1998 of a former case worker who was terminated after her bosses saw a photo of her with her female partner at an AIDS fund raiser.
The case was merged with a separate action filed by Kentucky taxpayers claiming that state funding to Sunrise Children’s Services, formerly called Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children, violated the constitutionally mandated separation of church and state.
Courts denied Alicia Pedreira’s religious-discrimination claim, saying it was unclear that her firing for being a lesbian had anything to do with her religious beliefs. The appellate court ruled, however, that taxpayers had a right to sue over what they view as religious indoctrination of children who are wards of the state.
Sunrise Children’s Services, a faith-based non-profit that operates 10 residential facilities and sponsors therapeutic foster care with the aid of taxpayer funding, had asked the Supreme Court to reinstate a 2008 ruling by a district judge who dismissed the lawsuit based on new precedent that just being a taxpayer doesn’t give someone the right to sue over a funding decision by government.
With the high court’s refusal to hear the case, it now can return to U.S. district court to determine whether Kentucky acted constitutionally in providing funds to a sectarian organization.
“Perhaps, after all these years, the courts will put a stop to this misuse of public resources,” noted a blog by Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.