People of faith across the United States are wondering how the 5-4 decision of the United States Supreme Court to redefine marriage will impact them. In Kentucky, we didn’t have to wait long to find out.
All of a sudden, volunteer chaplains reportedly have been turned away by Kentucky’s Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) unless they sign off on a document indicating they would never refer to homosexuality as “sinful.” This apparently new requirement is being linked to a DJJ policy on “Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity” adopted in April of 2014. That four page policy states, at one point, “DJJ staff, volunteers, interns, and contractors shall not imply or tell LGBTQI juveniles that they are abnormal, deviant, sinful, or that they can or should change their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
These types of policies have become commonplace in government and corporate settings. But to begin to require people of faith to sign off on statements that compromise our religious convictions is sad for those desiring to volunteer their time in programs designed to help fellow citizens who, for whatever reason, have found themselves caught in the justice system. Sadder still is the reality that those who are in this terribly broken system will no longer have a chaplain to listen to them, counsel them, and pray with them. As I understand it, a Baptist chaplain can’t serve a Baptist kid unless that Baptist chaplain promises not to address sexual sin as sexual sin. The same would be true for Catholic or Muslim kids who could not have access to a chaplain who shares their religious beliefs because those chaplains are no longer welcomed.
This news comes at a time when Kentucky’s government services are being revealed as woefully inefficient and horribly dysfunctional. For example, the Louisville Courier-Journal recently reported on the woeful state of Kentucky’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services. The opening line announced, “State social service officials in northern Kentucky lost track of nearly 100 cases of alleged child abuse or neglect – some not assigned to workers for investigation and others languishing for months after social workers responsible for them resigned.” It continued with a host of quotes from present and past employees revealing enormous caseloads, epidemic employee turnover, and workers’ debilitating stress levels. As for the Cabinet’s handling of the myriad of problems, one person observed, “The Titanic is sinking and the cabinet is rearranging the deck chairs.”
Rest assured, the current state of the DJJ is no better. Louisville’s WHAS-11 News reported on that topic earlier this year. In that report, Bardstown Police Chief Rick McCubbin stated, “No matter how horrible the crime is or if it’s a misdemeanor to say it’s a waste of the law enforcements time I’m probably not too far off base and I don’t think you’d find any officers across this state that would argue that point with me.” He went on to call the system “a joke.”
A mother all too familiar with the system said, “My child has 16 charges as a juvenile and is still getting chance after chance. Who does that? And then when he turns 18, I’m quite sure he’s going to think he can break the law and then he’s going be sent away for life because he wasn’t corrected as a child.”
In the midst of this disaster, and with a budget that has been slashed, the DJJ has found a way to rid itself of free help from those who are there for no other reason than to help broken kids put their lives back together. The great irony? The very belief system that has motivated us to volunteer our time for the betterment of our state and society is the belief system our state and society most fears. Chief McCubbin is right, the system is a joke.