FFRF files amicus brief in Colorado voucher case


The Freedom From Religion Foundation has filed a friend of the court brief on behalf of a nonprofit in its ongoing litigation against a Colorado school district’s aid to religious schools.

In 2015, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional the Douglas County School District’s voucher program giving public funds to religious schools. (The Taxpayers for Public Education, a Colorado-based group, filed the case.) But the U.S. Supreme Court in June said that state court must reconsider that ruling, in light of the Trinity Lutheran verdict. In that judgment, the U.S. Supreme Court narrowly ruled that a Missouri state constitutional provision prohibiting public money to religious institutions violates the First Amendment rights of churches.

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 contends. This provision, found in a majority of state constitutions and often referred to as the Blaine Amendment, “is not anti-religious bigotry,” writes FFRF.

“Ensuring that our constitutionally mandated secular government does not support religion is neither hateful nor intolerant, even when doing so denies religion a financial benefit to which it feels entitled,” the brief notes. Government should not tax citizens to benefit religion. Religious education should be the result of free and voluntary support given by the faithful, FFRF avers.

“The coercive taxing power of the government should not be wielded to oblige Muslims to bankroll temples and yeshivas, or to compel Jews to subsidize Christian churches and Catholic schools, or to force Christians to fund mosques and madrassas,” the brief states. The compulsory support of a religion or god that is not your own is anathema to American principles, FFRF points out.

The brief quotes Founding Fathers, 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 brief traces the history of the early implementation of the no-funding principle, showing that its purpose was to create inclusive public schools for all citizens, with various states banning funds for sectarian schools of all denominations. This principle originates in the American founding and must not be abandoned.

“The purpose of Colorado’s no-funding principle is to promote religious freedom. There can be no freedom of religion without a government that is free from religion. This court should protect that vital principle and the clause that implements it,” FFRF urges.

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

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national group with more than 29,000 nonreligious members and chapters all over the country, including almost 800 members and two chapters in Colorado.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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