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 Wins First Stage in Court: Students and Teachers Cannot Be Forced to Recite Pledge of Allegiance


On August 15, 2003, the Honorable Lewis Babcock, Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Colorado, granted the ACLU's request for a temporary restraining order (TRO) barring the State of Colorado and four local school districts from enforcing Colorado's mandatory Pledge of Allegiance law. Judge Babcock found that the law, which required all public school students and teachers to recite the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of every school day, was very likely to be found in violation of the Constitution.


The Colorado law made it mandatory for all children in grades K through 12 and all teachers to recite the Pledge. As Judge Babcock found, "There is nothing precatory in that language, it is wholly mandatory." Although the law permitted students and teachers to object to reciting the Pledge on religious grounds, it did not permit those who had other reasons of personal conscience, such as political objections, to refuse. Students could also be excused if their parents objected, but their parents would first be required to disclose their objection in writing and submit that to the school's principal.


Applying the United States Supreme Court's opinion in West Virginia School Bd. v. Barnette (1943), Judge Babcock agreed with the ACLU's arguments that the Colorado Pledge law was likely to be found unconstitutional because the First Amendment prohibits government from forcing people to participate in speech against their will. In his oral ruling, Judge Babcock said "It doesn't matter whether you're a teacher, a student, a citizen, an administrator, or anyone else, it is beyond the power of the authority of government to compel the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance."


Furthermore, the court rejected the State's contention that the law served legitimate educational values. The judge stated that "Pure rote recitation of a pledge such as this every day of the school year for one's tenure and matriculation through the school system cannot be said to be reasonable or legitimate in a pedagogical sense."


Judge Babcock also noted that the very existence of the law created a chilling effect on the ability of people to exercise their First Amendment rights. He noted that under Colorado law, students could be suspended or expelled and teachers could be fired for violating the Pledge statute.


Although Governor Owens at first asserted that he would fight the ruling, his lawyers later asked the court to "stay" the case (which means to temporarily stop any further legal proceedings) until the Colorado legislature has a chance to consider amending the statute to fix any constitutional problems. The court granted the stay, and extended the TRO until the legislature changes the law or the 2004 legislative session comes to a close without any such change.


In the meantime, both the Colorado Association of School Boards and William J. Moloney, the Commissioner of Education, have distributed memoranda to all school districts instructing them to abide by the terms of the TRO. In accordance with these statements and the court's ruling, no public school in the State of Colorado may force a student or teacher to recite the Pledge.


Is your school still enforcing the Pledge of Allegiance statute?

If you are a student or teacher in a Colorado public school and your school is compelling you to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, please contact the ACLU. For information on how to contact the ACLU about this issue and what information to provide, click here.

Return to News