July/August 2016 Church & State | AU Bulletin

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear a long-running lawsuit over the public funding of a sectarian children’s home in Kentucky.

In May, the high court sent Pedreira v. Sunrise Children’s Services back to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; the appeals court subsequently sent it back to a federal trial court for further proceedings.

Americans United originally filed the suit in 2000 on behalf of Alicia Pedreira, who was fired from her job at Sunrise after her supervisors discovered that she had attended a Louisville AIDS walk and identified as a lesbian. Sunrise, formerly known as Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children, also proselytized children in its care even though it received public funding for its work.

In 2013, Americans United and officials in Kentucky reached a settlement in the trial court. Under the terms of that settlement, Sunrise and other publicly funded faith-based contractors in Kentucky are prohibited from proselytizing children or coercing them to participate in religious activities, among other conditions.

Sunrise challenged the terms of the settlement, and the appeals court ruled that the trial court needed to analyze its conditions more closely. Yet Sunrise still sought Sup­reme Court review of the case, asking the high court to abolish taxpayers’ rights to challenge public funding of religious institutions.

“We’re pleased that the Supreme Court declined to review the case. Now we can proceed to ensure that the settlement of the case, which will protect the rights of taxpayers and children across the state, is fully implemented,” said Alex J. Luchenitser, associate legal director for Americans United.

The next step in the case will be proceedings directed toward approval of the settlement.