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Court Won’t Pick Off Suit on Religious Youth Homes

(CN) - The Supreme Court on Monday declined to review a decision that lets Kentucky taxpayers sue over the state Legislature's funding of a Baptist-owned youth home.

Both parties in the case had petitioned for review, with the taxpayers complaining that the underlying 6th Circuit decision improperly dismissed the religious-discrimination claim of a family specialist who said she was fired because she is a lesbian.

In 1998 Alicia M. Pedreira lost her job at the Spring Meadows Children's Home in Mt. Washington, Ky., after her bosses saw a photograph of her with her female partner at an AIDS fundraiser. The organization's parent company, Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children, said Pedreira was let go because her homosexual lifestyle is contrary to the "core values" of the Christian organization.

Pedreira sued Kentucky Baptist, and was joined by several taxpayers and Karen Vance, a lesbian social worker from the Louisville area who said she would have applied for a job with Kentucky Baptist if not for its policy against hiring homosexuals.

The lawsuit was combined with a separate action alleging that Kentucky Baptist violates the separation of church and state by teaching religion in facilities that receive more than $100 million a year in state funding.

After the District Court dismissed both complaints, the 6th Circuit affirmed in 2009. The three-judge panel ruled that neither Pedreira nor Vance was able to show that they were fired (or not hired) for religious reasons.

"It is undisputed that [Kentucky Baptist] fired Pedreira on account of her sexuality," Judge Julia Smith Gibbons wrote. "However, Pedreira has not explained how this constitutes discrimination based on religion. Pedreira has not alleged any particulars about her religion that would even allow an inference that she was discriminated against on account of her religion, or more particularly, her religious differences with [Kentucky Baptist]."

Further, Pedeira never argued that her sexual orientation is "premised on her religious beliefs, or lack thereof, nor does she state whether she accepts or rejects Baptist beliefs," Gibbons wrote.

The 6th Circuit reversed the District Court's dismissal of the church-and-state issue, however, ruling that state taxpayers have standing to sue, because the state Legislature's funding of an admittedly religious organization could constitute a direct injury.

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