Kentucky Constitutional Officers Urge Beshear Administration to Reinstate Contract with Sunrise Children’s Services

FRANKFORT, Ky. (May 17, 2021) – Attorney General Daniel Cameron today joined Secretary of State Michael G. Adams, Treasurer Allison Ball, Auditor Mike Harmon, and Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles in urging the Beshear Administration to reinstate a long-standing relationship with Sunrise Children’s Services (Sunrise) to provide foster care and adoption-related services for Kentucky children. 

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. While Sunrise has worked with the Commonwealth for approximately 80 years and through 14 gubernatorial administrations, the Beshear Administration publicly stated that it will terminate the relationship unless Sunrise agrees to violate its religious beliefs.

“Over the course of its history, Sunrise has provided care and support to Kentucky’s most vulnerable children when they’ve needed it,” said Attorney General Cameron.  “Now, the Beshear Administration is forcing Sunrise to choose between continuing to serve Kentucky children or abandon its religious beliefs. This is not good government, and it does not respect the First Amendment rights of a religious organization. Previous administrations, Republican and Democrat, have found ways to partner with Sunrise, and I hope Governor Beshear will do the same.”

In the letter, the coalition notes that the Kentucky Constitution “prohibits the government from diminishing ‘the civil rights, privileges, or capacities’ of any person on account of ‘his belief or disbelief of any religious tenant, dogma or teaching.’ And the General Assembly has enacted strong protections that require the Commonwealth to provide religious accommodations before excluding organizations like Sunrise from government programs.”

“As an adoptive parent, I’m grateful to Sunrise Children’s Services for their 80-year partnership with governors of both parties to provide foster care and adoption services,” said Secretary of State Adams.  “They truly have done the Lord’s calling to ‘do unto the least of these.’ I respectfully ask the Beshear administration to stand up for Kentucky children rather than kowtowing to political correctness.”

“Thousands of children have received loving care provided by Sunrise Children’s Services. It is appalling these services are ending because the Governor refuses to respect the religious freedoms afforded to Sunrise under the Constitution,” Treasurer Ball said. “Unfortunately, the lack of respect for religious freedoms is nothing new with this administration. With more than 9,000 children in out of home care, we can not afford to lose this service.”

“It is disheartening to me how Governor Beshear and his administration are discriminating against Sunrise Children’s Services,” Auditor Harmon said.  “For more than 40 years, Sunrise has provided crucial services to thousands of Kentucky children in a faith-based environment under both Republican and Democrat governors.  Governor Beshear’s decision means he will deprive these children of a safe home with adults that love them and want them to grow and thrive. Governor Beshear owes it to them to provide the same waiver past governors, including his father, have given to Sunrise.”

“For decades, Sunrise has been able to serve children without compromising its religious beliefs,” Commissioner of Agriculture Quarles said. “There's no good reason why the Governor can't allow Sunrise to continue serving children on the terms that worked during the Bevin, Steve Beshear, Fletcher, Patton, and other administrations. I stand with those who wish to protect one of our most vulnerable resources: our children.”

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.  Noting these staggering numbers, the coalition states that the Beshear Administration must reinstate the longstanding relationship with Sunrise, writing that “it is what Kentucky’s children need and what the law requires.”

View a copy of the letter here.