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On Bush Administration's 'Faith-based Initiative'

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    Statement of ACLU Lesbian & Gay Rights Project Director Matt Coles on Bush Administration s Faith-based Initiative FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, January 29,
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 1 6:01 AM
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      Statement of ACLU Lesbian & Gay Rights Project Director Matt Coles on
      Bush Administration's 'Faith-based Initiative'

      FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, January 29, 2001
      CONTACT: Eric Ferrero, ACLU (212) 549-2568; eferrero@...

      NEW YORK, NY - As George W. Bush prepares today to announce a new
      White House office to oversee the expansion of "faith-based
      initiatives" that will increase shifting federal funds to religious
      groups for social service work, the American Civil Liberties Union's
      Lesbian & Gay Rights Project released the following statement. [Below
      the statement is background on the ACLU's unprecedented federal
      lawsuit on behalf of a lesbian fired from a state-funded Baptist
      agency.]

      "In their current form, the president's proposals are a direct threat
      to lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgendered persons all across
      America. In response to criticism that these new plans blur the line
      between church and state, the administration is now using more
      moderate and inclusive rhetoric. But it's the plans, not the pitch,
      that matters here -- and the plans are dangerous.

      "Religious groups that want to provide social services are completely
      eligible for federal funds already. But there is a condition; they
      cannot use the money to preach to their clients, and they have to
      separate religious teaching operations from their social service
      operations. The president's proposals would do away with that
      limitation.

      "Last Spring, the ACLU Lesbian and Gay Rights Project filed a federal
      lawsuit in Kentucky which illustrates vividly what is wrong with the
      administration's ideas about "faith-based initiatives." A Baptist
      agency which gets $13 million of its annual $19 million budget from
      the state fired a top-notch children's therapist because she was a
      lesbian. The agency fired her, it said, because as a lesbian, she
      was incapable of inculcating fundamentalist Christian ideas in the
      children she is supposed to help, and was a poor role model.

      "If religious groups can get away with using government funds to
      preach and recruit, lesbians and gay men will pay a heavy price. But
      we'll hardly be alone. Children, the homeless, battered women, women
      looking for reproductive counseling and others will all find that
      proselytization is now the price of protection. For their sake, we
      must not let this happen.

      "Lots of religious organizations do a first rate professional job of
      delivering social services today. The only thing these new proposals
      would do is to get rid of the rules that require that the job be done
      professionally. But this is just what the First Amendment's
      separation of church and state is supposed to prevent, putting
      preaching into government functions."

      ###

      Pedreira et al. v. Commonwealth of Kentucky and Kentucky Baptist
      Homes for Children

      -- Case Background --


      Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children is the largest "private" provider
      of social services to children in Kentucky. Its many facilities
      statewide provide a range of services for youth who have been abused
      or neglected, or whose families are in crisis. Founded in 1869, KBHC
      describes itself as "the oldest Southern Baptist child care ministry"
      in America. KBHC began receiving state funds in the 1970s, and now
      receives well more than half of its $19 million annual budget from
      public funds. Alicia Pedreira, a KBHC therapist supervisor, was
      fired in 1998 because she is a lesbian. Her termination statement
      explained that, "Alicia Pedreira is being terminated on October 28,
      1998, from Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children because her admitted
      homosexual lifestyle is contrary to Kentucky Baptist Homes for
      Children core values." KBHC immediately passed a written policy that
      lesbians and gay men are prohibited from employment.


      Legal Claims

      Represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, Pedreira filed
      suit against the Commonwealth of Kentucky and KBHC, arguing that
      Pedreira's termination and KBHC's employment policy violate state and
      federal law, as well as the U.S. Constitution. In particular:

      * Since public funds are used to finance staff positions that
      are filled in accordance with religious tenets, the Establishment
      Clause of the U.S. Constitution is being violated. Similarly, the
      state is violating the Establishment Clause by providing government
      funds to finance KBHC services that instill Christian values and
      teachings to youth in its care.

      * State and federal law prohibit employment discrimination
      based on religion. Pedreira was terminated because of her failure to
      adhere to KBHC's religious beliefs regarding homosexuality.

      Broad National Implications
      The case against Kentucky and KBHC touches on a growing national
      trend of funneling public funds into religious organizations that
      provide social services. Such proposals enjoy mostly bipartisan
      support, and both major parties' Presidential candidates support
      their expansion. This lawsuit is the first of its kind in the nation
      to challenge whether intrinsically religious organizations can
      receive public funds for social services, and still discriminate
      based on religion. Such discrimination could be against gay men and
      lesbian, as well as unwed mothers, pregnant women and people of
      varying faiths.

      ###

      Pedreira et al. v. Commonwealth of Kentucky and Kentucky Baptist
      Homes for Children

      -- Case Chronology --


      March 1998
      KBHC recruits Alicia Pedreira from her job as a therapist at a
      Louisville hospital, and asks her to come work as a therapist
      supervisor.

      August 1998
      An amateur photograph of Pedreira and her partner is displayed
      without her knowledge at the Kentucky State Fair, where several KBHC
      employees see it.

      October 1998
      After two months of wrangling, Pedreira is fired from KBHC because
      she is a lesbian, which her supervisors knew when she was hired. On
      the same day, KBHC's Board of Directors passes a written policy
      barring lesbians and gay men from employment.

      October 1998
      Two of Kentucky's largest colleges stop placing social work students
      at KBHC, citing professional standards in conflict with KBHC's
      employment policies.

      April 2000
      The American Civil Liberties Union sues the state and KBHC in federal
      court - the first legal challenge of its kind, asserting that public
      funding of intrinsically religious organizations for social service
      work violates the
      U.S. Constitution when those groups are allowed to discriminate based
      on religion.

      June 2000
      Kentucky's highest-ranking government child-care official notes that
      KBHC's discriminatory policies violate social work standards and
      jeopardize the state's national child-care accreditation. As a
      result, the state indicates that KBHC's employment policy would
      endanger its financial contracts with the state, which are set to
      expire June 30, 2000.

      July 2000
      Kentucky's governor - who is mulling whether to run for the U.S.
      Senate -changes course suddenly, professing his own Baptist faith and
      renewing the state's contracts with KBHC without requiring any policy
      changes.

      Fall 2000
      The state files legal papers in federal court, using
      never-before-seen legal theories to justify its funding of KBHC. The
      state interprets federal law on religious-based discrimination more
      broadly than has ever been accepted, inaccurately invokes the U.S.
      Supreme Court's recent decision on Boy Scouts barring gay people, and
      explains that "there is no present compelling state interest in
      prohibiting discrimination against homosexuals."

      ###

      __________________________________________
      Eric Ferrero, Public Education Director
      The American Civil Liberties Union
      Lesbian and Gay Rights Project/AIDS Project
      125 Broad St., 18th Floor
      New York, NY 10004-2400
      P: 212-549-2568; F: 212-549-2650

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