Colorado Rights Blog

ACLU of Colorado By: ACLU of Colorado 2.27.2014

Religious Liberty Does Not Mean Freedom to Discriminate

It’s really quite simple.  Religious liberty means the freedom to believe what you believe, to state or even argue your beliefs in public if you wish, to gather in religious community, to worship as you choose, and to live your own personal life according to your religious faith or perspective.  Religious liberty does not and cannot mean the freedom to violate the rights or freedoms of others, to discriminate or violate public accommodation laws when serving the public, or to impose your religious practices and restrictions on employees, students or customers who may not share your religion.

Fortunately, the Governor of Arizona just vetoed a noxious bill that would have allowed many kinds of public discrimination in the name of religious freedom.  Unfortunately, the idea that religious freedom should allow discrimination and override public accommodation laws has been popping up in many places, including here in Colorado.  The ACLU of Colorado recently won summary judgment against a bakery that refused to make a cake for a same-sex couple in violation of long-standing public accommodation laws.  These laws are essential for equal protection in public commerce, preventing a chaotic breakdown of civility in a society with many different religious beliefs and personal biases.

The ACLU of Colorado upholds true religious liberty for all people and First Amendment principles of both free exercise of religion and non-establishment of religion in the public sphere.  If a bakery or other retail outlet refused to serve someone because of their religious beliefs, including the beliefs of any Christian tradition, we would fight that discrimination, too.  Ironically, the bill just vetoed in Arizona might have allowed exactly that kind of discrimination to occur.  It will be essential to remain vigilant against attempts to justify acts of discrimination against LGBT persons or anyone else in the name of religious liberty.



  • 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.