Colorado Rights Blog


  • Cedric Watkins is a father, uncle, entrepreneur-in-training, and a vital community pillar for many others. While behind bars, he has tirelessly devoted himself to serving his peers and his community. He developed gang disaffiliation programs for other incarcerated individuals and is currently involved with Defy Ventures. He sends letters and calls his daughter as much as he can.

    Cedric is currently in prison at Sterling Correctional Facility. He was convicted of aggravated robbery, burglary, kidnapping, theft and sentenced to 80 years; no one was seriously injured or killed. For comparison, a person convicted of second-degree murder in Colorado faces a maximum sentence of 48 years. Cedric has already served 20 years and has fully rehabilitated during that time.

    It’s time to bring Cedric home: Redemption is real. Clemency is compassion.

  • 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

  • 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. 


ACLU Challenges Colorado Law Requiring Teachers and Students to Recite the Pledge of Allegiance


Aug 12, 2003

The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Colorado (ACLU) filed suit today in federal district court in Denver challenging the constitutionality of the new Colorado statute requiring teachers and students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance each day in all Colorado public schools.

"Although Colorado legislators want to instill respect for the ideals represented by the American flag, this misguided law undermines its own goals," said Mark Silverstein, ACLU Legal Director. "Public expressions of belief in the ideals of liberty and justice should be voluntary, not coerced. By forcing individuals to pledge allegiance, this Colorado law violates the fundamental freedoms that the American flag is meant to represent."


The plaintiffs are students and teachers at Colorado schools. As plaintiff Keaty Gross stated, "I am a patriotic person, but I believe that part of our freedom in the United States is to express our support of our country in different ways. There should not be only one way to express your patriotism."


"Just as the First Amendment protects the right of individuals to speak out, it also protects their right to refrain from speaking. In other words, the government cannot compel people to speak against their will," explained Alan Chen, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Denver College of Law who is serving as the lead volunteer attorney on the case. "We filed this lawsuit on behalf of teachers and students who believe that expressions of belief should come from the heart, not from government mandate."


The law exempts individuals who object to the Pledge on religious grounds, but that provision does not apply to the ACLU's clients. "Our clients rely on objections of conscience that are separate from religious concerns," Chen continued. "By requiring that they recite the Pledge despite their objections, the Colorado law violates our clients' First Amendment rights."


The Colorado law also provides that students who are not eligible for a religious exemption may be excused from reciting the Pledge if their parents object in writing on any grounds and file the objection with the school's principal. "Three of our clients are students who feel strongly that they have a First Amendment right to refrain from participating, whether their parents write a note or not.," Silverstein explained. "The State of Colorado cannot make the exercise of First Amendment rights contingent on getting a note from mom or dad."


The ACLU lawsuit relies on a landmark United States Supreme Court decision handed down sixty years ago on behalf of Jehovah's Witnesses who were expelled from school because they would not recite the Pledge of Allegiance. In that case, West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette, the Court held that no government official had the power to compel individuals to pledge their allegiance, whether they objected on religious grounds or for other reasons of conscience.


Defendants in the lawsuit are Governor Bill Owens, Colorado Commissioner of Education William Maloney, and four school districts: Jefferson County, Denver Public Schools, Aurora Public Schools, and the Cherry Creek School District. The plaintiffs include students that attend school in Denver Public Schools and Cherry Creek, as well as teachers in each of the four school districts.


In addition to Silverstein and Chen, the ACLU legal team includes David Lane, of Lane and Killmer. Mark Hughes of Two Rivers Institute in Denver is also serving as co-counsel on the case.

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