FRANKFORT, Ky. — The Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) has revoked the volunteer credentials of a local pastor after he did not feel comfortable with signing an agreement not to refer to homosexuality as sinful.
“[Volunteers] shall not refer to juveniles by using derogatory language in a manner that conveys bias towards or hatred of the LGBTQI community. 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,” the “Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity” policy reads.
David Wells, a pastor with Pleasant View Baptist Church in McQuady, has been volunteering at the Warren County Regional Juvenile Detention Center for the past 10 years, ministering to troubled youth. But after he stated that he could not sign a new policy enacted last year about homosexuality and transgenderism, his volunteer status was revoked.
But Wells believes that he is particularly suited to minister to youth who are struggling with homosexuality and other matters of sexual temptation. He contacted the Virginia-based Liberty Counsel for assistance, which sent the DJJ a letter this week demanding that Wells be reinstated.
“[M]any children in the DJJ system have been sexually abused by others, including those of the same sex, and experience confusion about their sexuality, including feelings of same-sex attractions and compulsive sexual behavior,” the letter states. “Indeed, Mr. Wells himself is ideally suited to minister to them, as he was sexually abused for many years by a man when he was a young child, and successfully went on to overcome that abuse.”
Wells says that he has never spoken derogatorily with the youth, but has exhibited sensitivity in sharing the Scriptures to those who voluntarily receive his counseling.
“All of these children have asked Mr. Wells if there was any hope for them in this life, and in the life to come. He has told them without exception that Christ can, and would, forgive them, if they would repent and believe the gospel,” the letter outlines. “This message has given them hope, and many have told him this personally and in written correspondence.”
But according to Liberty Counsel, Superintendent Gene Wade recently told Wells regarding the new policy, “You can give a Scripture reference to the kids, and let them look it up, but you can’t read it in their hearing. You can’t say ‘sinful;’ you can’t discuss sexual orientation—heterosexual or homosexual—period.”
He said that he is “just doing what the state is telling [him] to do.”
However, Liberty Counsel believes that the requirement is unconstitutional, both on a federal and state level.
“As applied to clergy and lay volunteers, Policy 912 raises classic straw-man arguments that no minister would use in speaking to troubled youth,” it said in its letter to DJJ. “It equates the teaching of the Bible on sexuality as ‘derogatory,’ ‘biased’ and ‘hateful,’ and treats a volunteer’s religious beliefs about homosexuality as a religious litmus test for DJJ access.”
Liberty Counsel has requested that DJJ respond to its correspondence by July 31, agreeing to revoke the policy and reinstate Wells.