Ky. Baptist Charity Reconsidering Ban on LGBT Employees?

A Kentucky-based charity that specializes in homes for at-risk children may reverse a longstanding policy against having openly gay employees.

Sunrise Children's Services, formerly known as Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children, recently released a statement noting their serious consideration of such a move. 

Sunrise's President Bill Smithwick has expressed his support for the policy change, as reported by Peter Smith of the Courier-Journal.

"The core question is not about separation of church and state or government money," said Smithwick on Thursday.

"The question is whether we will walk away from the pain, suffering, loneliness, and brokenness of the kids we serve and have served since 1869."

Sunrise Children's Services did not return comment to The Christian Post by press time.

If the change is approved, it would be in contrast to the position of Sunrise back in 1998, when the charity gained headlines for firing an employee when it was discovered that she was in a lesbian relationship.

Sunrise was sued in 2000 for the firing, with the former employee being represented by Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Americans United opted to become involved in part because Sunrise receives funding from Kentucky taxpayer dollars.

"Most of the children in the care of Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children have been placed by the state, which has had a contract with the Baptist agency since the late 1970s," reported the Baptist Press.

Americans United also charged in its suit that Sunrise was engaging in religious proselytizing of the children under its care, which represented government money funding a sectarian effort.

According to a press release, Americans United is near to reaching a settlement with the state of Kentucky that involves "broad changes in its child-care system to protect children against religious coercion, indoctrination and discrimination."

"Such careful monitoring is necessary, attorneys said, because of the history of proselytizing at Sunrise Children's Services, a ministry originally known as Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children," stated Americans United.

Smithwick's announcement has come under fire from some, including Dr. Paul Chitwood, executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.

In an entry posted on his website on Monday, Chitwood expressed hope that Sunrise's Board of Trustees will reject Smithwick's proposal.

"How I wish Sunrise President Bill Smithwick would have been willing and desirous to meet with Kentucky Baptists or their elected leadership before attempting to secretly change the biblical convictions that have guided the organization since its founding 154 years ago," wrote Chitwood.

"Nevertheless, having heard from many of the trustees, I know that we still have reason to be hopeful that the board will reject Smithwick's recommendation."

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