After FFRF complaint, secular counselors also park free

Thanks to action by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, secular counselors will join clergy in getting free parking at the University of Kentucky Hospital in Lexington.

FFRF began its investigation after a query in late August from a Kentucky resident who wondered if it was legal to give free parking to ministers visiting hospital patients but not to nonreligious counselors.

Rebecca Markert, senior staff attorney, determined it was not legal and wrote a letter Nov. 19 to Dr. Michael Karpf, University of Kentucky executive vice president for health affairs. Free parking for clergy, Markert wrote, "is an impermissible practice because it affords a specific religion-based preference for access to a public accommodation. Chapter 344 of the Kentucky Statutes protects individuals against discrimination."

She also cited federal anti-discrimination law, including the Civil Rights Act: “All persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation . . . without discrimination on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin.”

Receiving no response, FFRF followed up with another letter Jan. 4.

On March 10, Clifton Iler of the UK Office of Legal Counsel replied in a letter. "[I]n reviewing our current policy related to clergy, the university has concluded that there are likely patients treated at the University of Kentucky Hospital who do not hold religious beliefs.

"Consequently, the university has amended it policy providing clergy with free parking so that any professional who provides emotion of spiritual support to paents at the University of Kentucky Hospital is eligible to receive free parking."

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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