Courtroom interior_newWritten by Don Byrd

A federal judge in Colorado has ruled against plaintiffs who argue a school voucher program must be opened to religious schools. Douglas County’s voucher system prohibits taxpayer funds from being used to send students to religious schools, after the state’s Supreme Court held last year that the Colorado Constitution bars such aid to religion.

This new effort argues essentially that in attempting to avoid violating the separation of church and state, the government has violated the free exercise of religion by discriminating against religious schools. The judge disagreed, as the Denver Post reports:

[Judge Marcia] Krieger ruled that the plaintiffs hadn’t met the tests for halting the program by court order, primarily because they hadn’t shown that the three Douglas County families would be “irreparably harmed” by the program’s non-sectarian nature.

In fact, the judge ruled, only five or six students have shown an interest in the voucher program to date and no schools had yet agreed to participate in the School Choice Grant Program.

“If (vouchers) are not awarded, there is no discrimination,” Krieger said.

The judge also indicated “she was not inclined to interfere” with a program that the U.S. Supreme Court may rule on. 

The Baptist Joint Committee filed a brief with the Colorado Supreme Court  in the earlier challenge to Douglas County’s voucher system, arguing that the state’s clear prohibition on aid to religion and religious schools invalidated the program. The Court agreed, though its decision has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.