Colorado Supreme Court shuts down voucher program

1Justice

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is celebrating the final demise of a high-profile school voucher scheme in a Colorado county after the state’s highest court dismissed a case involving the program.

In 2015, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that the Douglas County School District's voucher program was unconstitutional because it gave public funds to religious schools, in violation of a religious liberty protection in the Colorado Constitution. Last June, the U.S. Supreme Court asked the Colorado Supreme Court to reconsider this ruling in light of the federal Trinity Lutheran case. In that judgment, the U.S. Supreme Court narrowly ruled that a Missouri state constitutional provision prohibiting public money from going to religious institutions violates the First Amendment rights of churches.

However, in December the school district elected new school board members who voted to remove the voucher program altogether. Therefore, the Colorado Supreme Court decided that the case is moot.

FFRF applauds this outcome in favor of public education and religious liberty. In October, FFRF filed a friend of the court brief on behalf of the Taxpayers for Public Education, a Colorado-based group that challenged the voucher program.

The plaintiff’s contention that the Douglas County School District's voucher program was unconstitutional was evidently recognized.

The purpose of the disputed No Aid Clause in Article 9, Section 7 of the Colorado Constitution is to protect and foster religious freedom for all citizens, FFRF contended in its October brief. This provision, found in a majority of state constitutions and often referred to as the Blaine Amendment, “is not anti-religious bigotry,” wrote FFRF.

Religious education should be the result of free and voluntary support given by the faithful, FFRF avers. The Founding Fathers agreed, including Benjamin Franklin, who warned: “When a religion is good, I conceive that it will support itself; and, when it cannot support itself, and God does not take care to support, so that its professors are oblig'd to call for the help of the civil power, it is a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.”

FFRF’s October brief was filed on behalf of FFRF by Matthew A. Schultz in Denver, with writing credit to Andrew Seidel, an FFRF attorney and its director of strategic response.

“After seven years of litigation challenging this public support of religious schools, it’s wonderful to see reason and our secular Constitution prevailing,” comments FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national group with more than 30,000 nonreligious members and chapters all over the country, including more than 800 members and two chapters in Colorado.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

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