FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) – Attorney General Daniel Cameron and Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles and Auditor Mike Harmon, along with House and Senate Majority caucuses, say Gov. Andy Beshear should contract with Sunrise Children's Services after the U.S. Supreme Court unanimous ruling in a similar case that protected religious liberty.
The 9-0 ruling protects a child welfare provider’s free exercise of religion as guaranteed by the First Amendment. The decision bans the city of Philadelphia from requiring Catholic Social Services to violate its sincerely held religious beliefs. Catholic Social Services is Philadelphia’s largest child welfare provider.
The decision could be impactful for Sunrise Children’s Services in continuing to serve Kentucky’s children like it has for decades.
Cameron and Quarles joined other constitutional officers – Secretary of State Michael Adams, Treasurer Allison Ball and Harmon - in writing a letter to the Beshear administration in May, urging the governor to grant a child services contract to Sunrise Children's Services like previous governors had. Read the letter here.
“This ruling unanimously upholds the religious freedoms enshrined in our Constitution and is a victory for all Kentuckians and Americans of faith,” Cameron said. “We will continue to fight to ensure the sacred liberties of our Constitution are upheld for Kentuckians and faith-based organizations across the Commonwealth. To that end, we urge Governor (Andy) Beshear to reinstate the contract with Sunrise Children’s Services in light of this unanimous ruling from the nation’s highest court. Sunrise must be allowed to continue serving Kentucky’s children.”
Quarles said the ruling should end the Beshear administration’s refusal to contract with Sunrise.
“Today’s ruling from the United States Supreme Court is a victory for religious liberty and for religious nonprofit organizations," he said. "Today’s unanimous ruling applies here in Kentucky to the stand-off between Governor Andrew Beshear’s administration and Sunrise Children's Services and underscores the position I outlined a couple weeks ago: there is no good reason the Governor cannot give a contract to Sunrise, just like Kentucky’s previous governors did. Governor Beshear’s refusal to contract with Sunrise is a violation of the Free Exercise clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
“Governor Beshear should immediately stop discriminating against Sunrise Children's Services because of its religious faith and allow it to fulfill their mission of helping abused and neglected kids in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.”
House Speaker David Osborne and Speaker Pro Tem David Meade issued the following statement on behalf of the House Majority Caucus:
“In light of today’s unanimous ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in favor of Catholic Social Services (CSS) in the Fulton v. Philadelphia case, we again ask Governor Beshear to offer the necessary accommodations to Sunrise Children’s Services," Osborne said. "The opinion clearly supports the ability of our state to continue a relationship that has ensured Kentucky’s most vulnerable children are cared for by an organization with an impeccable record of service. In fact, Chief Justice John Roberts states that the refusal of Philadelphia to contract with CSS ‘cannot survive strict scrutiny, and violates the First Amendment.’
“In the opinion, Roberts specifically adds that the faith-based organization ‘seeks only an accommodation that will allow it to continue serving the children of Philadelphia in a manner consistent with its religious beliefs; it does not seek to impose those beliefs on anyone else.’ Governor Beshear, it is time to set aside the political rhetoric and make Kentucky’s children your priority.”
Harmon joined the chorus in supporting Sunrise by asking Gov. Beshear to allow the accomodation in light of the ruling.
"Sunrise Children's Service has a right to operate within their deeply held beliefs, and I call upon our Governor once again to provide Sunrise with the accomodation that every governor (Republican and Democrat) has given over the last several decades," he said on Twitter.
Sunrise is the largest private residential childcare provider in Kentucky, providing daily care to over 1,000 children and families. The agency has also facilitated more than 500 adoptions of Kentucky children. Sunrise has worked with the commonwealth for approximately 80 years and through 14 gubernatorial administrations.
As of early April, more than 9,000 Kentucky children were in some type of out-of-home care and more than 2,000 of these children await adoption.