ADF to Colo. high court: Children at faith-based schools shouldn’t be excluded from school choice program

8/5/2014


Attorney sound bites:  Gregory S. Baylor #1  |  Gregory S. Baylor #2

DENVER – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed a brief Monday asking the Colorado Supreme Court to uphold an appellate court’s ruling that affirmed Douglas County’s freedom to include private religious schools in its school choice program.

ADF filed the brief on behalf of the Association of Christian Schools International, the Catholic Diocese of Colorado Springs, Colorado Christian University, and the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities in opposition to a lawsuit that attacked the program because it allows some private faith-based schools to participate.

“School districts have a responsibility to provide the best educational choices for parents and their children without discriminating against religious options,” said ADF Senior Counsel Gregory S. Baylor. “The Court of Appeals affirmed that the Choice Scholarship Program respects the First Amendment and the private religious choices of Colorado families. The Colorado Supreme Court has every reason to reach the same conclusion.”

“Religious schools that meet all other qualifications are constitutionally free to participate in a religiously neutral program,” Baylor added. “These schools provide an excellent education that meets all state standards. They should continue to be welcomed into programs like this one so that students, the community, and the government will all benefit.”

Opponents of the program filed the suit, Taxpayers for Public Education v. Douglas County School District,after the school district implemented the program to allow for greater parental choice. The lawsuit claimed that the inclusion of religious schools in the program violates state constitutional provisions governing the relationship between church and state. In a lengthy opinion, the Colorado Court of Appeals disagreed. The program’s opponents then appealed the decision.

As the ADF brief filed with the Colorado Supreme Court explains, “The First Amendment nurtures this country’s distinctive heritage of religious pluralism by preventing the government from either promoting or inhibiting religious viewpoints in the marketplace of ideas. To ensure the continued vitality of this marketplace, to foster religious pluralism, and to protect the religious choices of citizens, the government may not exclude from a religiously-neutral program an otherwise qualifying institution solely because the institution’s ideology is grounded in religious conviction.”

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
 
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