by Edd Doerr
On Friday, August 12, Denver state court judge Michael Martinez ruled that a school voucher plan adopted earlier this year by Douglas County violates three separate sections of the state constitution. Douglas County is the richest county in Colorado (Republican dominated, of course) and one of the richest in the US. In his 68-page ruling Martinez noted that the recipient private schools, many of them not even located in Douglas County, are pervasively religious and that the program "provides no meaningful limitations on the use of taxpayer funds to support or promote religion."
County officials said they will appeal, but I can't see how they can possibly win, given the clear language of the state constitution -- clear for most people but perhaps not for Douglas County Republicans.
We might note that Colorado voters defeated vouchers 67% to 33% in a 1992 referendum and rejected tax credit vouchers in 1998 by 60% to 40%.
This victory for church-state separation, religious freedom, public education, and common sense is one small flash of good news in an otherwise rather bleak year.
The next voucher referendum is due in 2012 in Florida unless an ACLU lawsuit manages to quash the program imposed on the state by a GOP legislature and wingnut governor.
A reminder: tens of millions of US voters have rejected vouchers or their variants in over two dozen statewide referenda from coast to coast by landslide margins.
The Colorado ruling will be explored in detail in the next issue of Americans for Religious Liberty's journal Voice of Reason, along with other developments on church-state matters.