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Baptist agency can fire lesbian, says federal judge
In what will certainly be a much-cited case in the debate over charitable choice legislation, a federal judge in Louisville, Kentucky, ruled that Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children (KBHC) was allowed to fire a lesbian social worker—even though KBHC receives state funds. Alicia Pedreira brought suit against the agency, alleging religious discrimination. But Judge Charles R. Simpson III said that because KBHC cares about actions, not beliefs, her complaint was moot. "The code of conduct, although requiring behavior which is consistent with KBHC's values, leaves the religious freedoms of employees and potential employees unfettered," he wrote. "The civil rights statutes protect religious freedom, not personal lifestyle choices. There is no religious discrimination in an employment policy which does not require and does not inhibit the practice of or belief in any faith." (The decision is only available in Word Perfect format, but the docket is available in HTML form.)

Another part of Pedreira's lawsuit, focusing on whether government funds to KBHC violate the First Amendment, was allowed to continue. More than half of KBHC's $19 million annual budget reportedly comes from the state.

The ACLU, which represented Pedreira, is furious. "There can now be no question that if the Bush initiative is passed, the result will be government-funded discrimination," said legislative counsel Christopher E. Anders. "While we strongly disagree with its finding, the court has confirmed our worst fears."

As Weblog was writing this morning, KBHC still hadn't updated its Web site, but Bill Smithwick, the agency's president, told The Boston Globe he was pleased with the decision. "We base our whole ...

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