Children attending Vacation Bible School at Hazel Baptist Church, a small southwestern Kentucky church, received an offering of $6,300 for Sunrise Children’s Services, Kentucky Today reported.
Donations came from throughout the community, including from churches of other denominations. Dale Suttles, president of Sunrise, which had been involved in a months-long contract dispute with the state, said, “I’ve never seen a time where Baptists are more united and galvanized.
“This is something they are passionate about — helping hurting children.”
Kentucky reached a contract deal Thursday to continue placing youngsters with a Sunrise Children’s Services, a Baptist-affiliated children’s agency, after the Democratic governor’s administration removed LGBTQ anti-discrimination language.
The agreement continues the state’s long relationship with Sunrise, which is affiliated with the Kentucky Baptist Convention and provides foster care, residential and therapeutic services to children and families. It serves some of the most vulnerable children in a state with consistently some of the nation’s worst child abuse rates.
On Thursday, the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services said in an email it entered into the new one-year contract agreement to continue placing children with Sunrise.
Sunrise’s attorney, John Sheller, said the agreement includes language protecting his client’s “sincerely held religious beliefs.” It reflects what Sunrise had requested, he said, adding the agency “is grateful that the commonwealth has decided to follow the law” after prolonged uncertainty.
Sunrise officials say the disputed nondiscrimination language would have compelled them to violate deeply held religious principles by sponsoring same-sex couples as foster parents.
Impact of Supreme Court ruling
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear acknowledged recently that the state agreed to change the language of the contract following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
In the Pennsylvania case, the high court sided with a Catholic foster care agency that said its religious views prevented it from working with same-sex couples as foster parents.
Sheller had said the high court ruling applied fully to the Sunrise dispute, and warned if Kentucky failed to follow it, the state would “invite litigation which the governor is sure to lose.”
Kentucky officials said Thursday that Sunrise agreed to refer any “service applicants who identify as LGBTQ to another provider in good standing” with the state’s health and family services cabinet.
The dispute has had political fallout. Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, a Republican, and GOP state lawmakers had pressed Beshear’s administration to renew Sunrise’s contract.
Responding to Sunrise’s new contract, Cameron said: “I’m glad to see the Beshear administration follow the law and do what governors of both parties have done for decades — work with Sunrise so that the organization can continue the important work of serving Kentucky’s children.”