Separation of church and state: Not a myth after all! The Kentucky Supreme Court just ruled the University of the Cumberlands, a Baptist university, cannot keep an $11 million state grant lawmakers gave in 2006 to open a pharmacy school and scholarship program, because, well, state money cannot fund a church school. Even when it’s secular. And while the justices didn’t mention it, this whole case really centers around Jason Johnson, the student expelled by Cumerblands after he noted on his MySpace page that he’s gay, and caused a big freakin’ stink.
Kentucky’s constitution prohibits state money from going to a “church, sectarian or denominational school,” the court said. The funding, backed by Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, also violated the constitution’s rule against “special legislation” because it was intended exclusively for one small category of students, it said.
“If Kentucky needs to expand the opportunities for pharmacy school education within the commonwealth, the Kentucky General Assembly may most certainly address that pressing public need, but not by appropriating public funds to an educational institution that is religiously affiliated,” Justice Lisabeth Hughes Abramson wrote for the majority, upholding a 2008 circuit court that blocked the funding.
Johnson, who was a sophomore at the time and who now lives in Connecticut, says the decision is “good for Kentucky. I’m glad the Kentucky Supreme Court upheld the Kentucky Constitution.” For what it’s worth, Johnson, who was allowed to send in coursework after his expulsion and receive his grades, now uses Facebook.