The Kentucky Supreme Court on Thursday struck down the legislature's 2006 attempt to give $11 million in state funds to a private religious university for a pharmacy program, but it did so without restricting other kinds of state aid that flow to religious colleges.
The court's decision focused on the Baptist-affiliated University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, which wanted $10 million to build a pharmacy school and $1 million to start a pharmacy scholarship program.
The court did not address the University of the Cumberlands' decision, around the same time it was awarded the $11 million, to expel student Jason Johnson after he disclosed on a Web site that he is gay. The school said it had a rule against homosexuality and extramarital sex.
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.
Williams, who previously argued that the funding was legal, declined to comment Thursday.
Having lost twice in court, the University of the Cumberlands will drop its pharmacy school plans, said its president, James Taylor.
Since the university declared its ambitions several years ago, the University of Kentucky has expanded its pharmacy school, Sullivan College has opened one in Louisville and Midway College recently announced plans to start a pharmacy program in Paintsville, Taylor said.
"In our view, we have accomplished our purpose, which was to meet a critical need for pharmacists in the Appalachian area and beyond," Taylor said.
Read more of this story at Kentucky.com