Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Kentucky’s governor chickens out, gays steps up, and the whole mess goes to court

What started as a battle over a college’s right – or lack of it – to expel a student for no other reason than the fact that he’s gay has turned into a constitutional struggle in Kentucky.

The media/blog spotlight was turned on that fair state recently when the University of the Cumberlands kicked out an honor student because he revealed online that he is gay. That prompted the various media to take a look at the Kentucky Legislature’s plan to appropriate $11 million in taxpayer dollars for Cumberlands, a private Baptist college

And that lead a few folks to scratch their heads and wonder what happened to the separation of church and state in Kentucky. Using state money for churches is not only forbidden in the U.S. Constitution, but in the Kentucky Constitution as well.

All of which brings us to the current blow by blow…

Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher refused to veto the state money for Cumberlands, but suspended spending the money while a court decides whether the appropriation is constitutional

The executive director of the Kentucky Fairness Alliance filed suit in state court to block the funding declaring that it was an “unconstitutional appropriation and use of public funds” for “a sectarian and denominational school that treats Kentucky citizens unequally.”

Meanwhile, the Lexington Herald-Leader editorial page takes note of the fact that their governor is completely chicken. That's their term, not mine.
Yesterday evening, he (the governor) went on television to tell the public that he was cutting only $370 million out of $2.38 billion in projects.

One of the survivors was the ill-thought-out and probably unconstitutional $11 million boondoggle for a pharmacy school at a private, religious school.

The University of the Cumberlands is in the backyard of a Republican powerhouse, Senate President David Williams.

There were a lot of reasons to whack this special-interest appropriation, not the least of them being its questionable constitutionality. The Kentucky Constitution prohibits using taxes for "any church, sectarian or denominational school."

Frankly, that seems pretty clear. But Fletcher saw an opportunity to avoid responsibility and drag this out even longer as legal bills mount.
He declined to veto the money, but said he would withhold it while asking the courts to determine "once and for all," the legal status of state appropriations to private schools.

By tossing this hot potato to the courts, Fletcher put pandering to his conservative religious political base above leadership, common sense, fiscal responsibility and the law.
Stay tuned for further developments as we watch to see whether courts in Kentucky actually believe in the separation of church and state.

[Note: I accidentally switched the links on the lawsuit and veto news stories. Take note. It's a tad late, and I'll let you all figure out how to find which story.]

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