A settlement in a case challenging religious coercion at a state-funded home for children will proceed after a Kentucky federal judge rejected the religiously affiliated home’s objections to that settlement.
Yesterday’s decision in Pedreira v. Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children should end a fourteen-year legal fight involving the state of Kentucky, which had allocated public funds to the home. Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Washington, DC-based international law firm Arnold & Porter LLP had charged that state funds were being used to proselytize children and advance religion.
Under the settlement, which was agreed upon in March 2013, child-care agencies that contract with the state will be forbidden to discriminate in any manner against any child based on the child’s views about religion or to pressure children to participate in religious worship or instruction. Publicly funded child-care agencies and foster homes across the state also will be barred from placing religious items in children’s rooms without their consent, and religious materials will be given only to children who request such materials.
In addition, prior to placing a child with a religiously affiliated child-care agency or foster home, the state will inform children and parents of the provider’s religious affiliation, and if the child or parent objects, the state will endeavor to provide an alternative placement, except in certain special circumstances.
But Sunrise Children’s Services, formerly known as Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children, had asked the court to reject the settlement.
“We’re pleased that the court has allowed this settlement to proceed,” said Alex J. Luchenitser, Americans United’s associate legal director. “The settlement will protect taxpayers from being forced to subsidize religious indoctrination, and it will protect vulnerable children from religious coercion, discrimination, and proselytization.”
“We’re glad that this case has finally been brought to an agreeable conclusion,” said Daniel Mach, director of the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief. “Taxpayer funds should never be used for religious indoctrination.”
Attorneys representing the plaintiffs include Luchenitser, Americans United Legal Director Ayesha N. Khan; ACLU attorneys Mach, Bill Sharp, and James Esseks; and attorneys David Bergman, R. Stanton Jones, and Ian Hoffman of Arnold & Porter.
Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.