Judge: KY Lawmakers Can't Give State Money To Baptist College

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - State funding for a new pharmacy school at
a private, Baptist university violates the state constitution, a Franklin County judge ruled Thursday.
Kentucky lawmakers authorized the spending at the University of the Cumberlands shortly after it ousted a student in April 2006 for being gay. Plaintiffs had argued, among other things, that the student's dismissal from the southeastern Kentucky university was evidence that the school would not guarantee equal protection.
Franklin Circuit Court Special Judge Roger Crittenden, however,
ruled the court did not have to decide on that issue. Instead, Crittenden ruled that funding for the school's pharmacy building violated portions of the Kentucky constitution that guarantee religious freedom and that public money for education should not be spent on any "church, sectarian or denominational school."
Crittenden ruled it was unconstitutional for the General Assembly to appropriate $10 million in state funding for a new pharmacy school at University of the Cumberlands, and $2 million for a permanent scholarship fund there.
"This type of direct expenditure is not permitted by the constitution of Kentucky," Crittenden wrote in his ruling.
He also ruled that funding a permanent scholarship program as part of the state's two-year spending plan was unconstitutional.
A call to the Williamsburg school's media relations office for comment wasn't immediately returned.
The Center for Law & Religious Freedom in Springfield, Va., had
argued on behalf of the school that the legislature acted lawfully because it sought to address the state's shortage of pharmacists.
Kentucky Fairness Alliance executive director Christina Gilgor said Crittenden's ruling was a victory against state-subsidized discrimination.
"Judge Crittenden's ruling simply reaffirms that Kentucky taxpayers aren't expected to fund private, religious institutions. It's a victory against state-subsidized discrimination," Gilgor said.
Sen. Vernie McGaha, who intervened in the lawsuit supporting the
university, said he disagreed with Crittenden's decision because he thought the state should be able to give money to a private institution if it can offer services in exchange.
"I think it's a good business decision for the state and there's clearly a need for the services," McGaha, R-Russell Springs, said of funding a pharmacy building at the school.
The university ousted student Jason Johnson in April 2006 after he posted comments about his sexual orientation and dating life on the Internet. Plaintiffs argued the school discriminated against Johnson's free speech rights, while the university maintained it was following its conduct policy.
Crittenden said he did not need to make a ruling on that point, but wrote, "this is exactly the 'entanglement' between government interests and religious institutions that the Kentucky Constitution prohibits."
Senate President David Williams said the ruling was incorrect in part because the private university should not be considered a "religious sect, society or denomination." And, the school is not a church, Williams said.
"I think the judge is wrong," said Williams, R-Burkesville.
Sen. Ernesto Scorsone, a Lexington Democrat who is openly gay,
called the ruling a "victory" for Kentucky citizens and the state constitution.
"Our forefathers, using astute wisdom, mandated the separation of church and state. That separation protects both religion and the state," Scorsone said in written statement. "Public dollars should go to public institutions. To do so otherwise is to shortchange the taxpayers."

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by Fred Location: Lexington on Mar 7, 2008 at 01:50 PM
    Good. No State funding = Cumberland College decides who stays or goes. No questions asked. Fair is Fair.
  • by Kentuckian Location: South Central Kentucky on Mar 7, 2008 at 01:07 PM
    This is a victory for a group far too often oppressed in a state with far too many bigoted leaders who do favors for those groups they agree with, and scorn those they do not.
  • by Wilhelm Location: Lexington on Mar 7, 2008 at 05:20 AM
    Finally a jusdge that has some sense! The money is needed for the state budget not a private religious college that descriminates against equal rights for ALL people!
  • by Joyce Location: Flemingsburg on Mar 6, 2008 at 07:01 PM
    Ken's New Market in Flemingsburg just recently got on the bandwagon for an ecologically correct action. They have provided reusable bags for consumers/shoppers. The problem is to awaken the "sleeping giant" of apathy. I feel this is a news worthy subject to pursue. The final outcome is to motivate individuals to become actively involved, even in small ways, in environmentally correct actions. It seems even young people just out of school are totally lacking insight in these issues with very little initiative to act in a positive direction. These ones are just out of school and have very little passion for these issues that scientists are concerned about! Recycling has recently been reintroduced in this area but few are participating. Krogers and wild oats has been providing bags for several years. But if you stand in line in these stores few people are using them. I wish you could do a segment to motivate people to become more actively involved. This includes getting into schools etc
  • by Wow Location: RIchmond on Mar 6, 2008 at 05:12 PM
    We need to jail and fine those that believe in santa claus and spend our money highly unconstitutionally not to mention illegally (for those that dont comprehend)on such beliefs. Otherwise why not spend all our money on the nazi party?

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