University of the Cumberlands v. Pennybacker

The Kentucky General Assembly authorized a $10 million appropriation for the construction of a pharmacy-school building on the campus of the University of the Cumberlands, and pledged additional money to finance the creation of a perpetual scholarship program for pharmacy-school students. Because the University of the Cumberlands is a religious institution and is known to have discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation, the Rev. Albert Pennybacker, the Rev. Dr. Paul Simmons, and several other plaintiffs filed suit in state court to challenge the appropriations. Plaintiffs alleged that the appropriations contravene several provisions of the Kentucky Constitution, including a clause analogous to the Federal Establishment Clause and a provision that prohibits public funding of sectarian institutions. The trial court found that the appropriations were an unconstitutional establishment of religion. The Kentucky Supreme Court granted a direct appeal. On March 31, 2009, Americans United and the ACLU filed a joint amicus brief, arguing that the appropriations were plainly unconstitutional under the Kentucky Constitution and reminding the court of the importance of the separation of church and state. On April 22, 2010, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled in favor of Plaintiffs. The court concluded that the appropriation for the construction of the pharmacy school violated the provision of the Kentucky Constitution that prohibits appropriation of public funds "in aid of any church, sectarian or denominational school." The state supreme court also concluded that the scholarship appropriation was unconstitutional because it made scholarships available only to students at the to-be-constructed pharmacy school, and not to students at other pharmacy schools in the state.

Most Recent Developments: 

The deadline for petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari has passed, and the case has therefore concluded.