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. 

Crossing the border between Church and State


For the umpteenth time, Mikey Weinstein and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation are not anti-Christian. How many times must we go through this?

MRFF has filed an injunction to stop the Air Force Academy from holding its traditional National Prayer Luncheon next week. The facts surrounding this event have been reported well elsewhere. I want to focus on the public response.

Far and away, the most frequent criticism leveled against Weinstein and his organization is that he hates Christians. This is like saying the Border Patrol hates Hispanics.

The vast majority of people who illegally cross the border separating the United States and Mexico are Hispanic. So they are the majority of those caught and punished by the Border Patrol. The vast majority of people who illegally cross the border separating church and state are Christians. So they are the majority of those caught and punished by the courts.

Of course, the huge majority of Hispanics obey the law, and so do most Christians. Connecting the power of Christianity to the power of American military might is of little or no interest to the vast majority of American Christianity. We all know the quote from Jesus about rendering unto Caesar.

However, certain offshoots of Protestant fundamentalism are very interested in strengthening the connection between Christianity and government. They would, I believe, establish Christianity as the national religion of America. They believe that Christianity and Islam are destined to meet in an apocalyptic war at the end times, and if those times are coming soon, so much the better. It is this branch of Christianity that started the “National Day of Prayer” movement. This in turn brought us National Prayer Breakfasts and National Prayer Luncheons.

The National Day of Prayer was made possible by the successful lobbying efforts of Billy Graham, during the height of the Cold War. He stood on the Capitol steps and warned that we as a nation had “dropped our pilot, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Public fear of godless communism was running high. It was an act of political genius.

Today, National Prayer events are now widely recognized as Christian events, because Christians are the only ones who care about them. The huge majority of speakers at National Prayer anythings are evangelicals. Like the one MRFF is attempting to challenge.

Lt. Clebe McClary, is a highly decorated Marine who sees himself as a member of “The Lord’s Army.” That clearly connects religious faith to national power. Ask yourself who uses that phrase most often. Catholics gave up that rhetoric long ago. Jews don’t use it, even those serving in the Israeli Armed Forces. For Methodists, Unitarians, and LDS members, it is not part of their religious vocabulary.

“The Lord’s Army” is the exclusive property of those Christians who want their religious beliefs linked to American national power. They are by no means the majority of Christians, let alone the majority of Americans. But they are the majority of those who continually throw themselves against the electric fence of the First Amendment. So they shouldn’t be shocked when something happens.

I do not know if MRFF’s request for an injunction will be granted. First Amendment case law requires a delicate balance between the Establishment Clause on the one hand and the Free Exercise clause on the other. And for reasons most of you know, I am not happy to see the Academy used as a reluctant canary in the coal mine of constitutional jurisprudence.

But neither am I happy to see Weinstein and the mission of MRFF mischaracterized. If the luncheon takes place as scheduled, I will be there. I will listen to what Lt. McClary has to say, and if given the opportunity I may ask him a question or two. But to anyone who seeks to wed religious zeal to American military might to prepare for the Apocalypse, I have some words for you: The Constitution is not on your side. It is on ours.

Dr. Fagin is a lay Torah reader at Temple Shalom in Colorado Springs, an ACLU National Civil Liberties Award Recipient, and a winner of the 2009 Thomas Jefferson Award from the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.

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