Jun 27, 2004

Americans United for Separation of Church and State today lauded the Colorado Supreme Court's decision against a school voucher program that would have funneled large sums of public funds into religious and other private schools.

In a 4-3 ruling today, the state's high court said the school voucher law violates a section of the state constitution that requires local school boards to maintain significant control over funding of district schools.

In spring 2003, Americans United, along with local branches of the ACLU, the NAACP and other public interest groups, brought suit against the voucher law on a number of state constitutional grounds.

"This is a great victory for public schools and the taxpayers," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. "Public funds should never be diverted to religious and other private schools that don't have to answer to the people. The decision strongly stands for the right of local school boards to direct funding and management of their schools."

The majority of the Colorado Supreme Court in Owens v. Colorado Congress of Parents concluded that the Colorado Opportunity Contract Pilot Program subverted the state constitution's mandate for local control of public schools.

"By denying local districts discretion to allocate their locally-raised funds, the program not only violates the clear mandates of our cases construing article IX, section 15, but also undermines the basic rationales of our state-wide school finance system: effectuating local control over schools," Judge Michael L. Bender wrote for the majority in a 30-some page ruling.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in the safeguarding religious freedom.