Kentucky Baptists Elect to Starve Abused Children Rather Than Hire Gay People
Some absolutely sickening news out of Kentucky this month: Sunrise Children’s Services, which shelters and feeds more than 2,000 abused and neglected children every year, is facing a $7 million budget shortfall—a shortfall entirely manufactured by the Kentucky Baptist Convention in order to prevent Sunrise from hiring gay people.
MARK JOSEPH STERN
Mark Joseph Stern is a writer for Slate. He covers science, the law, and LGBTQ issues.
The trouble started last year, when Sunrise’s then-president and CEO, Bill Smithwick, suggested that the group end its ban on hiring gay people. Smithwick reasoned that, with LGBT nondiscrimination legislation on the horizon, Sunrise’s anti-gay policies could cause the charity to lose its taxpayer funding, which accounts for about 85 percent of its operating budget. Kentucky’s Baptist community, however, wasn’t so enthusiastic. As soon as Smithwick introduced the proposal, the Kentucky Baptist Convention encouraged its affiliates to blacklist Sunrise until it abandoned its proposed nondiscrimination policy. Church donors across the state immediately began withholding their usual contributions,
Aside from Smithwick, no one will understand that message better than the 2,000 children who rely upon Sunrise every year to protect them from dire poverty or abusive parents. Thanks to the convention’s actions against Sunrise, those children’s wellbeing is now imperiled by a grave (and entirely manufactured) budget shortfall. In protesting Smithwick’s proposal, the convention claimed that hiring gay people would violate Baptist teaching. It seems, then, that depriving impoverished kids of food, clothes, and services in order to make a political point is more Christian than allowing a children’s charity to stop discriminating against gays.