Agreement settles 20-year-old lawsuit over Sunrise foster care services

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WTVQ/Press Release) – Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Kentucky announced Thursday they’ve reached an agreement with Kentucky officials to protect children in the state’s care from unwanted religious proselytization and discrimination.

The agreement, filed previously with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky, settles Pedreira v. Sunrise Children’s Services, a lawsuit that was filed more than 20 years ago.

The parties to the agreement had accordingly moved to dismiss the lawsuit, and the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky entered an order officially ending the lawsuit.

In the settlement, Kentucky officials agreed to take steps to ensure children are not subjected to religious proselytization, coercion, or discrimination when they are placed by the state with taxpayer-funded, residential child care providers.

State officials also agreed to take action to prohibit providers from discriminating against or mistreating children because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Other terms include that the state will inform children and, if available, their parents of the religious affiliation of a proposed residential child care facility or foster home, and if the children or parents object, the state will try to provide an alternative placement, except in certain special circumstances.

Also, children must provide consent before any religious items are displayed in their rooms at taxpayer-funded child care agencies and foster homes, and religious materials may be given only to children who request them.

Parts of the settlement are contingent on being codified into new or amended state regulations.

Americans United, the ACLU and the ACLU of Kentucky filed the lawsuit on behalf of Kentucky taxpayers who objected to their state tax dollars funding religious indoctrination and discrimination, including Alicia Pedreira, who was fired in 1998 by Sunrise Children’s Services (formerly known as Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children) because she is a lesbian, and faith leaders Johanna W.H. Van Wijk-Bos, an ordained Presbyterian minister, and Elwood Sturtevant, an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister.

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