|P. O. Box 22100, Lexington, KY 40522||
Homes for Children fires lesbian
Unusual circumstances form platform for statewide gay initiative
From Kentucky Citizen Digest, March, 1999
Last October’s firing of a lesbian by the Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children (KBHC) drew more than just harsh criticism — the action became the rallying cry for the gay-rights effort in Louisville. Bill Smithwick, president of the 130-year-old organization told staff members that this is a wake-up call. “If we continue to hold our basic Judeo-Christian values, we’re going to find ourselves more and more at divergent views with our secular society,” said Smithwick. “We better wake up to these issues.”
The controversy began when Alicia Pedreira, an art therapist for teenagers, was photographed wearing an “Isle of Lesbos” T-shirt while participating in an AIDS walk. The photo was entered into a contest at the Kentucky State Fair, making it public that Pedreira was a lesbian. She was fired shortly thereafter. “It isn’t about special rights,” Pedreira said to a group of her supporters. “It’s about rights for everyone and fairness for everyone.”
But Brenda Gray, KBHC’s vice president for development and communications, disagrees. “We strive to be fair in our dealings with all people, including certainly, our employees.” In a statement to Southern Baptist pastors, Gray said “This decision was based on our commitment to the Christian values KBHC was built upon. We are simply fulfilling our mission to create the best environment possible for the children in our care. We feel the best way to carry out this mission is to provide these children with teachers, caregivers and role models who embrace traditional family values.”
Gray said that Pedreira should have known that a homosexual lifestyle is incompatible with the mission of KBHC. The top of the employment application spells out the agency’s purpose and expectations of employees, something Gray says the major media reporting this story overlooked. It says, “Every employee is a role model for the children and families under KBHC’s care; therefore, employees are expected to exhibit values in their professional conduct and personal lifestyles that are consistent with the Christian mission and purpose of the institution.”
As clear as the employee expectations were, Jack Cox, the manager who hired Pedreira, ignored them as well. Pedreira made it known she was a homosexual before she was hired and Cox told her it would be OK as long as she didn’t talk about her private life at work. Cox and 4 other employees quit in protest to the firing. But this was only the beginning of KBHC’s troubles.
Spalding University and the University of Louisville’s Kent School of Social Work withdrew their students from KBHC’s programs while homosexual activists staged protests and demanded that the state cut off funding. Fifty-nine percent of KBHC’s budget came from the state last year. But state law only addresses discrimination based on race and sex, not sexual behavior. “We can’t base any funding decisions on whether somebody discriminates based on sexual orientation,” said Cary Willis, a spokesman for the Cabinet for Families and Children.
What is not immediately obvious to the casual observer, is that the gay-rights lobby in Washington has always said they would never attempt to force their life-style into the ranks of religious organizations with their nondiscrimination employment legislation. But with this situation being the rallying cry for statewide legislation, the real agenda belies the rhetoric.
Smithwick noted that if it ever came down to accepting state money or compromising biblical principles, there would be no question that they would stand by their principles. But he adds that if funding were cut, about 75 percent fewer children and families would be served. Currently, KBHC cares for 3,300 abused, neglected and emotionally disturbed children through eight residential programs, 20 counseling centers, and 100 foster homes.
Gray says that they fill a need
that the state cannot meet and, if funding is cut, the children would have
nowhere to go. “Everything we do is in the best interest of the children,”
Gray said — something homosexual activists should keep in mind, asking
themselves on whose best interest they are focusing.
|Key Family Foundation
Kent Ostrander, Executive Director
Martin Cothran, Senior Associate Policy Analyst