Colorado Court Upholds Antiquated Law, Prevents Needed Educational Scholarships Fueled by an initial win, Douglas Country school district looks to Supreme Court
Ryan Colby 202-349-7219 firstname.lastname@example.org
Washington, D.C. – Giving new strength to an antiquated and bigoted state provision, the Colorado Supreme Court eliminated a scholarship program for low income students this week. Two years ago, a lower court said that the Choice Scholarship Program was legal, effectively rejecting the discriminatory Blaine Amendment. On Monday, however, the higher court disagreed by a vote of 4-3.
“All these families want is a good education for their children. Instead of focusing on the needs of children, the Court decided to treat any exposure they might receive to religion as if it were second-hand smoke,” said Diana Verm, Counsel at Becket, a firm that has been fighting Blaine Amendments for over 20 years and filed an amicus brief in the appeal.
Blaine Amendments are nefarious mid-nineteenth century provisions found in dozens of state constitutions that prohibit the use of state funds for “sectarian” schools. These amendments were born out of anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant bigotry that favored Protestant-dominated public schools.
“The Colorado Supreme Court got it wrong,” added Verm. “Nothing in our Constitution prohibits cooperation between religious groups and government programs. In fact, this kind of cooperation benefits untold numbers of Americans on many fronts. The White House itself has an office of faith-based initiatives to foster increased cooperation between religious groups and the government.”
In March 2011, Douglas County created the Choice Scholarship Program to help low-income families send their children to private schools of their choice. The ACLU, the Freedom from Religion Foundation and several local organizations sued to end the scholarships. Relying on a Blaine Amendment, the district court struck down the program, but in early 2013 the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the scholarship program, wisely rejecting the dark history of the Colorado Blaine Amendment. On Monday, the Colorado Supreme Court overturned the court of appeals decision.
Douglas County has said that it is considering an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which would give the Supreme Court the opportunity to right the wrong of religious discrimination still apparent in Colorado’s legal system today.
For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at email@example.com or 202.349.7224.
Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. For over 20 years, it has defended clients of all faiths, including Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians. Its recent cases include three major Supreme Court victories: the landmark ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, and the 9-0 rulings in Holt v. Hobbs and Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, the latter of which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”