A private child care agency in Kentucky finds itself with serious budget problems because Baptist churches that usually donate lots of money to the agency stopped doing that because someone proposed that the agency should stop discriminating against gay people in their hiring.
Uncertainty over a short-lived proposal to open employment to gays at Kentucky’s largest private child care agency prompted many of its supportive churches to withhold giving last year, causing a multi-million dollar shortfall.
Sunrise Children’s Services depends on giving from Baptist congregations in Kentucky, along with government funding. But Kentucky Baptist Convention executive director Paul Chitwood said those offerings dried up last year because donors were concerned that the proposal to allow gay workers might succeed.
The Sunrise board ultimately rejected the proposal introduced by Bill Smithwick, then CEO of Sunrise. But the flap left the agency that cares daily for about 600 children with a funding shortfall of about $7.5 million.
“Most of our churches decided not to take the annual offering for Sunrise because they feared that Smithwick was going to lead Sunrise away from” the Kentucky Baptist Convention, Chitwood said. The state convention, which is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention and has about 2,400 member churches in Kentucky, is conservative on social issues and opposes gay marriage…Smithwick was in his 16th year at the helm of Sunrise when he floated the proposal to open employment to gays. He had said he feared the agency’s ban would eventually lead to a loss of millions in government funding, meaning the agency would have to drastically scale back its budget, since most of its funding — Smithwick said 85 percent of about $27 million — comes from government sources.
The board ultimately rejected the proposal. But Sunrise board member Stan Spees said at the time that the proposal divided the board more than any issue raised during his six years at the agency. Smithwick resigned in December.
“I see clearly what (Smithwick) was thinking, however I would humbly disagree with him on that because it matters about the scriptures and it matters about the gospel,” said Ron Shaw, pastor of Community Baptist Church in Somerset. Shaw spoke in favor of taking a no confidence in Smithwick’s leadership vote at the state convention in November. It overwhelmingly passed.
The Bible says you can’t hire gay people? I must have missed that verse. The motto of the Kentucky Baptist Convention should be “We care about kids, but not as much as we care about hating and discriminating against gay people. So if there are gay people around, to hell with kids.”