State elected officials urge Beshear to work with Sunrise Services

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UPDATE POSTED 12:45 P.M. MAY 17, 2021

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – The state’s major constitutional office holders united today to urge Gov. Andy Beshear to reinstate a long-standing relationship with Sunrise Children’s Services (Sunrise) to provide foster care and adoption-related services for Kentucky children.

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Attorney General Daniel Cameron, Secretary of State Michael G. Adams, Treasurer Allison Ball, Auditor Mike Harmon, and Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles saigned a letter to the governor asking him to try to resolve an issue that has been lingering in the courts for two decades.

“The Beshear Administration is forcing Sunrise to choose between continuing to serve Kentucky children or abandon its religious beliefs. This is not good government, and it does not respect the First Amendment rights of a religious organization. Previous administrations, Republican and Democrat, have found ways to partner with Sunrise, and I hope Governor Beshear will do the same,” Cameron said.

“As an adoptive parent, I’m grateful to Sunrise Children’s Services for their 80-year partnership with governors of both parties to provide foster care and adoption services.” Adams went on to state, “They truly have done the Lord’s calling to ‘do unto the least of these.’ I respectfully ask the Beshear administration to stand up for Kentucky children rather than kowtowing to political correctness,” added Adams.

“There’s no good reason why the Governor can’t allow Sunrise to continue serving children on the terms that worked during the Bevin, Steve Beshear, Fletcher, Patton, and other administrations. I stand with those who wish to protect one of our most vulnerable resources: our children,” noted Quarles.

The administration has stopped placing children with the agency because it won’t place children with gay parents. The administration has said it is concerned that could open the state up to more legal issues based on Supreme Court rulings and risk the state losing federal funding because of Sunrise’s position.

ORIGINAL STORY POSTED MAY 12, 2021

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ)Some Republican legislative leaders have waded in on a federal lawsuit that has been around for 20 years.

Members of the House Majority Caucus sent Gov. Andy Beshear a letter Wednesday asking the administration reconsider its position in a dispute between the Cabinet for Health and Family Services and Baptist-affiliated Sunrise Children’s Services.

“Sunrise is a proven partner in caring for the children of Kentucky and has been for more than four decades,” Speaker Pro Tem David Meade said. “We are simply asking that the state continue in this partnership and not risk the care provided to hundreds of Kentucky children. Now is not the time for the administration to make this about politics.”

In the letter, Meade and fellow Caucus members point out Legislature approved language that specifically applies to this and similar contract disputes as part of HB 192, the Executive Branch Budget.

The language, which could face some legal issues because of federal court rulings, reads: “Children’s Services Contractors: Notwithstanding KRS Chapter 45A, no contracts awarded for the use and benefit of the Department for Community Based Services shall interfere with the contractor’s freedom of religion as set forth in KRS 446.350. Any such contracts shall contain a provision allowing a contractor to allow a substitute contractor who is also licensed or approved by the Cabinet to deliver the contracted services if the contractor cannot perform a contracted service because of religiously held beliefs as outlined in KRS 446.350.”

“I think our intent in HB 192 is clear, the Commonwealth of Kentucky can’t discriminate against a provider because of that organization’s religious convictions,” Rep. Kim King of Harrodsburg said. “There is no question about the quality of care provided by Sunrise Children’s Services, but rather a challenge to the beliefs held by this denomination and many other Kentuckians of faith.”