Court rejects ACLU’s attempt to punish Baptist children’s home for dismissal of employee

Home provides social services for at-risk youth
Tuesday, September 01, 2009

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit ruled Monday that a Baptist children’s home, Sunrise Children’s Services, did not violate state or federal laws when it dismissed an employee who was engaged in homosexual conduct.

The court ruled that the home did not violate Title VII, the federal employment discrimination law, or the Kentucky Civil Rights Act. The American Civil Liberties Union brought the lawsuit against the home, which provides social services for at-risk children. The Alliance Defense Fund provided funding for attorneys with the Christian Legal Society and Thomas More Law Center to defend the home in the suit.

“Faith-based organizations should not be discriminated against for their beliefs. This is an important victory for the ability of faith-based social service providers to hire employees who share their values,” said Greg Baylor, attorney for the Christian Legal Society Center for Law & Religious Freedom.

In its ruling, the 6th Circuit also dismissed the ACLU’s claim that the home should not receive partial expense reimbursements from the federal government for its needy youth programs because of the home’s religious affiliation. The court, however, allowed the claim that partial expense reimbursements from the state government might violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to proceed, which the home intends to appeal.

“The reimbursement Sunrise receives has been used to serve abused and neglected children,” Baylor explained. “We are confident that the ultimate outcome of this case will be that the home will continue to help at-risk youth as it has been doing for years.”

The suit began when the children’s home, formerly known as Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children, dismissed Alicia Pedreira, an employee who was involved in homosexual behavior. The Kentucky ACLU attempted to characterize Pedreira’s dismissal as religious discrimination and challenged the state and federal reimbursement the home receives, claiming its religious affiliation made the reimbursement a violation of the Establishment Clause.

John Sheller of the Louisville law firm Stoll, Keenon & Ogden is lead counsel for the home in the lawsuit, Pedreira v. Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children.

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.