Sunrise Children's Services is backing down from a proposal to hire gays and lesbians.
The agency gets about $1 million dollars from the Kentucky Baptist Convention. The two organizations have had a 144 year relationship.
"We don't want to cross the line to start saying that homosexuality is not a sin. We believe that it is," said Dr. David Prince, pastor at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church.
Sunrise Children’s Services President, William Smithwick, recommended hiring gays and lesbians which would go against Baptist beliefs.
“If they would have made the wrong decision here, they would be just another organization reaching out to needy children,” said Prince.
Sunrise gets about $26 million dollars from state funding.
“When you have an organization that is being funded say 98% by the state government then it's important that the values of the people who are funding it are seen through,” said Roy Harrison, Chairman of Lexington Fairness.
According to a survey by the Schapiro Group, 83% of Kentuckians surveyed support LGBTs from workplace discrimination. Kentucky has no law against discrimination in the workplace for these employees. Some cities have fairness ordinances to protect LGBTs.
“It is perfectly legal throughout much of the state to be let go for your own sexuality,” said Harrison.
Thursday, the Senate passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, ENDA, which gives employment protection for everyone.
ENDA still would need to be approved by the House of Representatives.
Price doesn’t think ENDA would affect Sunrise’s funding and no word yet on how Friday’s decision would affect its government money.
“If it does come to that, then Sunrise Children's sServices should pull completely out of government funding and we should figure out what we're going to do simply on the basis of the money that we Baptists and Christians can gather together for that ministry,” said Price.
Statement from Sunrise Children's Services:
The Board of Directors of Sunrise Children’s Services has voted to make no changes to the organization’s current hiring practices. Therefore, Sunrise Children’s Services will continue the practice of informing applicants that the organization does not hire gay people.
“Let us be clear about this vote,” said Joyce Smith, Chairman of the Sunrise Board of Directors. “With this decision, we are not promoting anything other than the physical, mental, and spiritual welfare of our children. We remain focused on our mission of providing love and support to the victimized children that Sunrise serves and our decision today will not affect the everyday care Sunrise provides to families and children.”
William Smithwick, CEO of Sunrise, says the Board understands and respects the position of those who will not like this decision. “For those that do not agree with our practice, we understand and we would love to have you join us in putting the kids first and support our mission of helping the least among us; victimized children who need a safe haven and the chance to see love and experience hope,” said Smithwick.
Sunrise contracts with the Commonwealth of Kentucky to provide services for young people who have been abused or neglected - children whose lives have been scarred by unspeakable physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. Sunrise receives approximately $26 million from the Commonwealth to perform these services, and the Kentucky Baptist Convention donates one million dollars.
Smithwick also is hopeful that support remains strong to continue the mission of providing assistance to the fragile young people who have been served by the organization since 1869.
“We need the assistance of caring people everywhere,” said Smithwick. “The number of children in out of home care in Kentucky exceeds 7,000. Sunrise cares for almost 400 of these kids daily and another 200 in other community based services.”
The goal of Sunrise Children’s Services is to provide a place of refuge, of hope, of love, and of healing to children whose lives have been devastated. For these children, Sunrise is a place where they can begin to feel safe, a place where they encounter adults who give unconditional love, a place where they can begin to learn that the world can be a good place