Kentucky has reached a contract deal to continue placing youngsters with a Baptist-affiliated children’s agencyBy BRUCE SCHREINER Associated PressJuly 15, 2021, 9:12 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleFRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky reached a contract deal Thursday to continue placing youngsters with a Baptist-affiliated children’s agency, coming after the Democratic governor’s administration removed LGBTQ anti-discrimination language that the agency steadfastly refused to sign.The agreement continues the state’s long relationship with Sunrise Children’s Services — a foster care and adoption agency. Sunrise also offers residential treatment programs, serving some of the most vulnerable children in a state with consistently some of the nation’s worst child abuse rates.The state Cabinet for Health and Family Services said in an email Thursday that it entered into the new one-year contract agreement to continue placing children with Sunrise.Sunrise’s attorney, John Sheller, said the agreement includes language protecting his client’s “sincerely held religious beliefs.” It reflects what Sunrise had requested, he said, adding the agency “is grateful that the commonwealth has decided to follow the law” after prolonged uncertainty.Sunrise officials say the disputed anti-discrimination language would have compelled them to violate deeply held religious principles by sponsoring same-sex couples as foster parents. Sunrise is affiliated with the Kentucky Baptist Convention, consisting of nearly 2,400 churches with a total membership of about 600,000 people. The faith views homosexuality as a sin.Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear acknowledged recently that the state agreed to remove the LGBTQ anti-discrimination language from the contract following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.In the Pennsylvania case, the high court sided with a Catholic foster care agency that said its religious views prevented it from working with same-sex couples as foster parents.Kentucky officials said Thursday that Sunrise agreed to refer any “service applicants who identify as LGBTQ to another provider in good standing” with the state’s health and family services cabinet.Sheller previously said that Sunrise already offers to help steer same-sex couples to other child services agencies that are a “better fit.” He said he was aware of a handful of such instances. Sheller has said that Sunrise “willingly and gladly” accepts LGBTQ youths and does not put children in conversion therapy, which tries to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.Like many other states, Kentucky contracts with private agencies like Sunrise for some of its child welfare services. Beshear’s administration had set a June 30 deadline for Sunrise to sign a new contract, threatening to stop placing children with the agency if it refused. But the governor said recently that children were still being placed with Sunrise.Formerly called Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children, Sunrise’s history dates to caring for Civil War orphans. It has contracted with the state for more than 50 years.Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, a Republican, and GOP state lawmakers had pressed Beshear’s administration to renew Sunrise’s contract.
GREENSBURG, Ky. — U.S. Sen. Rand Paul complained bitterly Tuesday about the government’s COVID-19 response but did not single out former President Donald Trump for blame, instead accusing Kentucky’s governor and Dr. Anthony Fauci of encroaching on personal freedom.In a home state appearance in Greensburg, Kentucky, the libertarian-leaning Republican said Americans should make their own decisions on whether to be vaccinated.“We don’t really need people who believe in some sort of elitism to tell us what to do,” said Paul, who is an eye surgeon, speaking before a luncheon audience. “I think we’ve got pretty good sense.”Paul noted that most people age 65 and older have receive their vaccinations, saying they “figured out it was in their best interest to do so.”“In a free society, we make these decisions individually,” he said.Paul acknowledged Trump as “one of the big leaders” of the national Republican Party but said the GOP has a lot of leaders. Paul deflected a question about whether he might seek the presidency again, saying he is focused on his 2022 Senate reelection bid.Paul’s talk of individuality comes as the Biden administration tries to reach its COVID-19 vaccination goal by sending A-list officials across the country, devising ads for niche markets and enlisting community organizers to persuade unvaccinated people to get a shot.Paul opened his wide-ranging remarks by taking aim at Fauci, the nation’s top government infectious-diseases expert, and Kentucky’s Democratic governor, Andy Beshear.Paul has sparred with Fauci over the need to wear masks once coronavirus vaccines were available and over how COVID-19 originated. The senator told the rural GOP crowd Tuesday that Fauci was “busy being political” and “elitist,” adding: “We’re smart enough to make our own decisions.”The senator lambasted Beshear over his virus-related restrictions on businesses that have since been lifted, saying: “In our state, the governor decided that he was king.” Beshear has said his actions saved lives.The Kentucky Supreme Court is currently reviewing a separation-of-powers case stemming from measures passed by the state’s GOP-dominated legislature to limit the governor’s executive powers. Beshear filed a lawsuit after lawmakers overrode his vetoes of bills reining in his executive authority. Paul called it the most important case before the state’s high court in decades.“Because if the court rules that the legislature cannot limit a governor’s powers, then you have a governor with unlimited powers,” the senator said Tuesday. “And it is incredibly dangerous.”After his speech, Paul defended his focus on the past virus-related actions. He said he gets more questions about his clashes with Fauci than any other topic when meeting with Kentuckians.“I think it’s still very present on people’s minds,” the senator told reporters. “I think it also was the greatest restrictions of our freedom in a long, long time. It’s hard to look for a precedent of where government got so involved in our daily lives over the past many decades.”Paul also criticized a push by liberal advocates to change or eliminate the Senate’s filibuster rules, saying he also opposed such efforts when Republicans led the chamber.“We have a danger zone until the election of 2022,” he said, adding that removing the filibuster would lead to “all kinds of michief” by Democrats — including widespread voting by mail and “confiscatory” tax policies.He said that “having things go at a slower pace” can be a good thing.Paul is seeking a third Senate term in next year’s election. Charles Booker, a Black former state lawmaker who touts a progressive agenda, has emerged as a leading potential Democratic challenger. Paul made no reference to Booker during his appearance in Greensburg.Paul did downplay prospects for a repeat run for the presidency in 2024. The Kentucky senator ran for the White House in 2016 but his campaign fizzled as Trump overshadowed the GOP field.Paul said Tuesday that he’s focused on his reelection campaign, and said the national GOP political scene will be “upended until President Trump decides what he’s going to do.”“And so I think we wait and see,” Paul said when asked about a 2024 presidential bid. “But it’s not something that I’m actively thinking, oh, this is my next step. I’m not really thinking toward that. It would have to be some extraordinary set of events to come together probably for me to consider it.”Asked if Trump remains the leader of the national GOP, Paul said: “The Republican Party is a big party, so I think there are many leaders. And former President Trump is one of the big leaders in the party. But it’s not monolithic.”
A Kentucky judge has temporarily blocked a new parole board policy that would give dozens of convicted murderers another chance at potentially cutting short their life-in-prison sentencesBy BRUCE SCHREINER Associated PressJune 18, 2021, 9:09 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleFRANKFORT, Ky. — A Kentucky judge has temporarily blocked a new parole board policy that would give dozens of convicted murderers another chance at potentially cutting short their life-in-prison sentences.The temporary restraining order issued this week by a circuit judge was requested by Attorney General Daniel Cameron and Jackie Steele, commonwealth’s attorney for Knox and Laurel counties.The court order blocks the Kentucky Parole Board from giving a new parole hearing to more than 40 prisoners previously ordered by the board to serve out life sentences for such crimes as murder, rape and kidnapping, Cameron said. The new policy sparked an outcry from prosecutors statewide.“We are grateful that the court acted with urgency to grant the temporary restraining order and stop the Parole Board from giving new hearings to 45 convicted criminals who are responsible for some of the worst crimes in recent history,” Cameron said in a statement Friday.”We will continue to fight in court on behalf of Kentucky crime victims and prosecutors to ensure that the board’s directive is permanently stopped,” the attorney general added.The state Parole Board said Friday that it would comply with the court order, and that the parole eligibility hearings at issue in the matter would not go forward.Until the rule was blocked, some prisoners previously ordered to serve out life sentences were scheduled to receive another parole eligibility hearing as early as next month, Cameron’s office said.They included a man responsible for the murder and kidnapping of two high school students, a woman responsible for murdering her 10-year-old stepson, a man who killed two teens on their first date and a man responsible for kidnapping, sexually assaulting and killing a college student, the attorney general’s office said.The restraining order was the first step requested by Cameron and Steele in challenging the rule. They filed a lawsuit last week in Laurel County Circuit Court asking that the policy be invalidated, claiming it violates state law and Kentucky’s constitution.The suit takes aim at the rule limiting the parole board’s ability to order a prisoner to serve out a life sentence at an initial parole eligibility hearing. Allowing new parole hearings would subject the victims’ families to reliving the crimes, Cameron and Steele said.“When victims are finally told that those responsible for carrying out a crime against their loved one will serve out their sentence, they feel like they can close out a painful chapter and start the healing process,” Steele said. “For a government agency to open it all back up, like the Parole Board did, is terrible.”Cameron claims the parole board lacked the legal authority to issue the new directive this spring. Even if it did have the authority, the board failed to follow the administrative regulation process, which requires a review by state lawmakers and a public comment period, the lawsuit said.