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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.

Court blocks voucher plan that would fund religious schools in Colorado

Judge Agrees with ACLU and Americans United's Challenge to Scheme that Used Taxpayer Funds to Pay Religious School Tuition

DENVER – A district court ruled today that a voucher plan adopted by the Douglas County School District violates the Colorado Constitution by diverting taxpayer money to pay students’ tuition at primarily religious, private schools. The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, the national American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State challenged the program on behalf of a group of parents, clergy and other taxpayers.

“The court correctly recognized that it is unconstitutional for the state to underwrite a child’s religious education,” said Mark Silverstein, Legal Director for the ACLU of Colorado. “Families who wish to send their children to a private school may do so, but not with government funds that may only be used to provide a free public education for Colorado’s children.”

The “Choice Scholarship Pilot Program,” offered tuition vouchers worth $4575 to 500 students to spend at private, mostly religious schools. For the purposes of obtaining state per-pupil educational funds, Douglas County still counted these children as “public school students” attending an imaginary school that exists only on paper. In reality, the voucher money was spent at district-approved “Private School Partners.” As of the filing of the lawsuit, 18 of the 23 approved Private School Partners are religious.

“By paying for students to attend religious schools, the state was unconstitutionally promoting and subsidizing particular faiths,” said Heather Weaver, director of the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief “It’s particularly disturbing that the state would not only pay for students to attend these private institutions, but insist on continuing to count them as public school students. We are glad that the court put a stop to this misguided program.”

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.

“The evidence overwhelmingly demonstrated that the voucher program illegally uses taxpayer money to promote religion and that it provides virtually no meaningful choice to families who don’t want to put their children in religious schools,” said Alex J. Luchenitser, senior litigation counsel for Americans United. “It’s hardly a choice when the overwhelming majority of private schools participating in the program are religious.”

“When I pay my taxes, I want to be sure that my money is benefitting all Coloradans, not just those of a particular faith,” said plaintiff James LaRue. “This ruling confirms that our taxpayer dollars should be used to give all of Colorado’s schoolchildren an equal chance at a good education.”



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