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  • Anthony Martinez is 84-years-old and suffering from renal failure, as well as other serious medical conditions including dementia. He is currently incarcerated in the Sterling Correctional Facility, site of one of Colorado’s largest COVID-19 outbreaks with almost 600 active COVID-19 cases. He and his family are understandably terrified that he will catch the virus and die.

    In the midst of this public health crisis, incarcerated people as vulnerable as Anthony, could and should be immediately released to safely live out their remaining years with family.

    Read more about Anthony Martinez and other at-risk incarcerated people. 

  • Ronald Johnson is pre-diabetic, suffers from asthma and high blood pressure, and regularly uses an inhaler to breathe. His age and respiratory ailments put him at risk of serious illness and death if he contracts COVID-19. With over hundreds of active cases in Colorado’s prisons, his family fears he will not make it out alive. His daughter, Amber, says, “In prison, he can’t protect himself and he can’t social distance. My deep fear is that my dad will die in prison. That is an awful, traumatic reality to consider. My chest is tight just thinking about how quickly it spreads and how vulnerable he is.”

    Governor Hickenlooper shortened his sentence following testimony from family, friends and correctional officers advocating for his early release. Yet, he is still eight years away from parole. While he remains in prison, COVID-19 continues to spread. Ronald’s three siblings, four children and four grandchildren are desperate for his release.

    Read more about Ronald Johnson and other at-risk incarcerated people.

  • Tuesday Olson knew her pregnancy was in trouble and tried to access hospital care as soon as possible. But there was a problem: she was in jail. This is her story.
  • It’s time to end the death penalty in Colorado. Family members who lost loved ones to murder speak out against an unjust and broken system.

ACLU, Americans United Applaud Colorado Supreme Court Decision Striking Down Voucher Program Funding Religious Schools

June 29, 2015
DENVER – Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado are applauding a decision today by the Colorado Supreme Court striking down a Douglas County school voucher program that had allowed taxpayer dollars to flow directly to religious schools.

In a decision announced this morning, Colorado’s highest court ruled that the county’s so-called “Choice Scholarship Pilot Program” violates the Colorado Constitution because it improperly diverts public funds to private, religious schools. Citing Article IX, Section 7 of the state Constitution, the court explained, “[T]his stark constitutional provision makes one thing clear:  A school district may not aid religious schools. Yet aiding religious schools is exactly what the [voucher program] does.”

“Parents are free to send their children to private religious schools if they wish, but the Colorado Supreme Court affirmed today that taxpayers should not be forced to pay for it,” said ACLU of Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein.

Counsel for Petitioners, Matt Douglas, said that: “The court made clear that this type of program violates the plain language of the Colorado Constitution, and rejected the argument that temporarily passing the money through the hands of parents could avoid this specific prohibition.”

The program provided 500 students with vouchers worth about $4,600, which could be spent on tuition at religious and other private schools. In order to obtain per-pupil educational funds from the state, Douglas County classified these children as “public school students” who attended a charter school that did not actually exist.

In reality, the voucher money was spent at district-approved “Private School Partners,” a collection of private schools. According to the Court, 16 of the 23 approved Private School Partners were sectarian. The court found that this violated the “broad, unequivocal language forbidding the State from using public money to fund religious schools.”

“The Colorado Constitution provides very strong safeguards for the separation of church and state, and today’s decision preserves and honors those protections,” said Heather L. Weaver, senior staff attorney for the ACLU’s Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief.

“It is unconstitutional to bankroll religious schools with public funds,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “But that is precisely what would have happened in Douglas County had the Colorado Supreme Court ruled otherwise.”

In 2011, the civil liberties groups filed a lawsuit on behalf of parents, clergy and taxpayers. A lower court decided in their favor, but in 2013 the Colorado Court of Appeals upheld the program.

Plaintiffs were represented by Douglas, Timothy R. Macdonald, and Michelle K. Albert of Arnold & Porter LLP; Alex J. Luchenitser and Ayesha N. Khan of Americans United; Weaver and Daniel Mach of the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief; and Silverstein and Sara Rich of the ACLU of Colorado.

Resources:

Read the Colorado Supreme Court’s decision: http://static.aclu-co.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/LaRue-Opinion.pdf

View: Civil Liberties Groups Ask Colorado Supreme Court to Strike Down Douglas County Voucher Program

Visit the ACLU case page with corresponding legal documents: https://aclu-co.org/court-cases/la-rue-v-colorado-board-of-education/



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