Tweets

Colorado Rights Blog

Videos

  • On November 21, 2016, 13 Aurora police officers responded to a simple noise complaint at Alberto Torres’s home. As happens all too often, Aurora police officers escalated this minor issue into a brutal affair. They beat Mr. Torres solely because he delayed exiting his garage to ask his wife to interpret for him. With that beating, the lives of Mr. Torres and every member of his family were changed and he has yet to recover. ACLU of Colorado fought to obtain justice for Mr. Torres, and Aurora has now paid him $285,000. But money is not justice, and the brutality of the Aurora Police Department against people of color has continued unabated.

    It doesn’t have to be this way.

    Imagine, if instead of 13 officers being dispatched to Mr. Torres’s home for a noise complaint, the City of Aurora sent a civilian-led response team to check on his welfare and ask that he and his friends lower their sound, resulting in a non-violent solution to a minor issue?

    ACLU Settles Case With Aurora After Police Brutalize and Unlawfully Arrest Alberto Torres

  • Hope is a discipline. It’s a commitment that together, we can create a more perfect union. We won’t rest until we fulfill the promise of equal rights for ALL people in the United States.

    Join us in our fight to fulfill this promise and move forward with hope by donating to the ACLU of Colorado. Your donation supports the ACLU’s strengths that make our work effective and collaborative.

    Donate now at https://action.aclu.org/give/support-aclu-colorado

  • 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.

ACLU and Americans United File Lawsuit To Block Voucher Plan That Would Fund Religious Schools in Colorado

Civil Liberties Organizations Say Scheme Violates Colorado Constitution

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Rosemary Harris Lytle, 303.777.5482 x111

DENVER – Three civil liberties organizations filed suit today in Denver District Court to challenge a school voucher plan adopted by the Douglas County School District. The American Civil Liberties Union, the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado and Americans United for Separation of Church and State sued on behalf of a group of parents, clergy and other taxpayers who oppose the program’s effort to divert taxpayer money to primarily religious, private schools.

“While families have the right to decide where their children should attend school, the state cannot finance religious education at private institutions,” said Heather L. Weaver, staff attorney for the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief. “Public education funds should be dedicated to improving our public schools, not promoting and subsidizing religion in violation of the state constitution.”

Through its “Pilot Choice Scholarship Plan,” the district plans to designate up to 500 children as “public school students” in order to obtain state per-pupil educational funds, which are earmarked for the public school system. The district then plans to use the taxpayer dollars to subsidize the students’ tuition at approved “Private School Partners.” As of the filing of today’s lawsuit, 14 of the approved 19 Private School Partners are religious. Only three of the five non-religious Private School Partners are open to all students, and they do not offer education beyond the eighth grade.

The lawsuit argues that the voucher plan violates the Colorado Constitution’s religious liberty provisions, which bar the appropriation of public funds to religious schools. The lawsuit also claims that the program violates Colorado constitutional provisions and statutes that require educational funds to pay for public education and remain under government control.

“This lawsuit challenges a scheme to violate the letter and spirit of Colorado school finance statutes as well as state constitutional provisions governing public education and religious liberty,” said Mark Silverstein, legal director of the ACLU of Colorado. “The school district will collect money from the state of Colorado and deliver some of those funds to private schools to subsidize students’ tuition payments. Thus, taxpayer funds allocated for public education will be diverted from their intended purpose. We are asking the court to stop this misguided program before it goes any further.”

Highlighting the religious liberty concerns raised by the program, Americans United for Separation of Church and State Executive Director Barry Lynn explained, “Vouchers are nothing more than a backdoor way of forcing people to support religious schools. Douglas County’s reckless plan threatens church-state separation and public education and should be struck down.”

The lawsuit asks the court to enjoin the program and declare it unlawful. As summed up by plaintiff James LaRue, “This program harms both religious liberty and public education. Douglas County and Colorado citizens deserve better in both regards.”

In addition to the school district, the lawsuit names as defendants the Colorado Board of Education and the Colorado Department of Education, which both approved the misguided financial arrangement and assisted the district in developing the program.

The plaintiffs are represented by Silverstein and Rebecca T. Wallace of the ACLU of Colorado; Ayesha N. Khan and Gregory M. Lipper of Americans United for Separation of Church and State; Weaver and Daniel Mach of the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief; and Matthew J. Douglas, Timothy R. Macdonald, Michelle K. Albert, Paul Alexander and George Langendorf of Arnold & Porter LLP, cooperating counsel.

Click here to learn more about the history of school vouchers in Colorado.



Return to News