Faith-Based Termination

The issue of giving taxpayer funds to religious organizations providing government services recently resurfaced in the presidential campaign. Since the ACLU is a nonpartisan organization that doesn’t take sides in elections, you’ll have to look elsewhere to learn how the candidates compare on the issue. But keep reading if you want to hear about the devastating effects that can result when adequate safeguards to prevent the use of this funding for religious purposes are not put in place.

Last week the LGBT Project and Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed a brief before a federal appeals court on behalf Alicia Pedreira, who was fired from her job at a publicly-funded Baptist group home for wards of the State of Kentucky because she didn’t observe the organization’s belief that being a lesbian is sinful.

In 1998, Pedreira was recruited to work as a family specialist for a Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children (since renamed Sunrise Children’s Services) unit for behavior-disordered adolescent boys in the state's foster care and juvenile justice systems. She was a well-respected counselor and received positive feedback for her work. Things turned sour when employees of the Baptist organization saw a photograph of Pedreira and her partner on display at the state fair. Pedreira didn’t even know the photo was being displayed, but that didn’t stop the organization from firing her on October 23, 1998. The same day, the organization passed a written policy that homosexuality would prohibit employment at the organization because it is inconsistent with its Christian values.

The ACLU and Americans United filed a lawsuit on behalf of Pedreira on April 17, 2000, charging that it was unlawful for the publicly-funded Baptist organization to fire Pedreira because she did not observe her employer’s religious beliefs about sexual orientation. The complaint also charges that it was unconstitutional for the state to spend taxpayer dollars to fund a religious organization that attempts to indoctrinate children placed under state care. After years of litigation, the district court dismissed the case on March 31, 2008. The legal groups appealed the decision to the Federal Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and are urging the court to allow the case to proceed.

The lower court dismissed Pedreira’s discrimination claims, finding that Pedreira didn’t suffer religious discrimination because Baptist Homes did not require her to believe that being a lesbian is sinful, but merely required that she observe its religious belief that being a lesbian is sinful. The legal groups argue that this interpretation of the law would mean employers are free to discriminate against all employees whose lives fail to conform to the religious beliefs of the employer, so long as the employer doesn’t require its employees to actually share its religious beliefs. Workers could be fired for failing to conform to their employer's religious beliefs concerning social dancing, eating meat, receiving blood transfusions, marrying someone of another faith, or serving in the military.

The appeal raises another very important issue: whether taxpayers have standing to bring legal challenges when the government violates constitutional guarantees against government funding of religion. The lower court ruled that taxpayers are barred from bringing legal challenges after the 2007 Supreme Court decision in Hein v. Freedom from Religion Foundation. But as our brief points out, that case clearly stated that it applied only to discretionary executive branch expenditures, not funds authorized by a legislature.

It’s pretty scary to think about the ramifications of the lower court’s decision being allowed to stand. Government would be free to farm out its work to a religious group, which would be free to fire or refuse a job to anyone whose beliefs don’t conform to its own. And there would be little concerned taxpayers could do about it. Think about that the next time you hit the dance floor.

It ’s been nearly a decade since Alicia Pedreira was fired, yet she still hasn’t had her day in court. Let’s hope the wait is worth it.

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Carter Beale

Harry Hay has been called the founder of the modern gay movement. In 1952, his progressive actions were disarmed by an association to the dense fog of McCarthy wariness. The way fundamental human rights are estranged through other means (be it funding issues, employer rights, or Communism) is apparent throughout the history of the struggle for constitutional rights.

"Well, the dream died" says Harry Hay. Featured in the recent book by Bud and Ruth Schultz WE WILL BE HEARD: Voices in the Struggle for Constitutional Rights Past and Present includes over 90 stirring portraits and first-person accounts of people targeted by the United States Government for their political activities.

David Cole, legal affairs correspondent for The Nation, says of this powerful book-
"This is the most beautiful book ever published."

WE WILL BE HEARD: Voices in the Struggle for Constitutional Rights Past and Present is published by Merrell Publishers and includes a foreword by Howard Zinn and an afterword by David Cole.

keane williams

We, as Christians, will continue our prayers. Jesus Christ came to the earth to love and to save all those who believe in his name. Don't always look to the Christians to be perfect. We're human, just like you. Look to Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith. When you fight for the rights of your people, aren't you doing the same to us? If one owned a business and as an outline, stealing was wrong under the code of business as something that must be followed--and if I stole something-- would I have a right to say that I was right, because I thought it was right-- even though it was directly outlined? That doesn't seem correct. Since Christ came, Christians have and will continue to be the most persecuted throughout history. As Jesus said, "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first." So, as you laugh and ridicule as you read this, keep in mind that many of us are truly praying for you and your family and your future. May God bless you.


as long as faith based dollars are matched at a higher level 1 us dollar to them yields 2 or more in services; there is a greater good being done.

additionally, as long as the government extends faith based to all groups that are faith based to include secular faith based orgs - what is the problem.

The lady cited as supporting lesbianism should of gone to work for a not for profit organization her beliefs matched, freedom of religion and to believe is inalienable.

constitution says the government will not impose any one religion over another; by matching any faith based group willing to serve the people it accomplishes this goal.

Pete B in Ca

Why should an organization be forced to retain an employee who's very actions are contradictory to the values and beliefs on which that organization is founded? Sounds like you are trying to force people to compromise their beliefs, or else you will sick your overpriced lawyers and liberal agenda on them.


this is clearly the greater sect of the world in these days

and it catches new indoctrinated every day

and as other sects they censure and condemn to which they do not share his ideas


what is the word for that?

only the lying ones are scared of the truth


You are not been born

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