Press Release

Federal court blocks Colorado’s discrimination against Catholic preschools Second federal court rules Colorado’s universal preschool funding program violates the Constitution

Media Contact

Ryan Colby 202-349-7219

Additional Information

St Marys Littleton Preschool exterior cropped

WASHINGTON – A federal court in Colorado ruled today that the State of Colorado violated the law by excluding Catholic preschools from the State’s new universal preschool (UPK) program on the basis that they consider religious affiliation in making enrollment decisions. In St. Mary Catholic Parish v. Roy, two Catholic preschools and a Catholic family asked a federal court in Denver to stop the Department of Early Childhood from excluding them from the UPK program. While the Department provided funding for 15 hours per week of free preschool to over 40,000 families attending private, public, and faith-based preschools across Colorado in its first year, it denied that benefit to families who send their children to St. Mary’s and St. Bernadette’s Catholic preschools because the preschools ask families to share their beliefs. 

In a 101-page opinion, the court explained that Colorado’s effort to exclude the schools on this ground “created an unworkable scheme that breaches the appropriate limits on state power.” The State, according to the court, “provided no compelling interest” for excluding Catholic preschools because they consider religious affiliation in their enrollment and operations decisions. Last year, a different federal judge in Denver also issued a ruling against the State, in a case brought by a separate religious preschool raising similar claims. The decision is the latest setback for Colorado’s embattled UPK program. 

“Of course a Catholic school shouldn’t be punished for caring about its students’ religion,” said Nick Reaves, counsel at Becket. “Colorado richly deserves this injunction, as it did the earlier one.” 

Given the multiple issues addressed in the court’s ruling, the decision may be appealed by any party. Any appeal from this decision would be to the Denver-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. 

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, contact Ryan Colby atmedia@becketlaw.orgor 202-349-7219.