A lawsuit has been filed on behalf of two Denver-area parishes and the Archdiocese of Denver, alleging that Colorado’s universal preschool funding program violates the Constitution by unfairly excluding Catholic preschools that seek to join the initiative. The legal action pertains to Colorado’s universal preschool initiative, which was established in 2022. This initiative provides eligible families with a minimum of 15 hours per week of complimentary preschool for their participating children. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit consist of St. Mary Catholic Parish in Littleton and St. Bernadette Catholic Parish in Lakewood, both situated within the Denver metropolitan area, in addition to the Archdiocese of Denver itself. The lawsuit asserts that the program’s regulations are in violation of the Constitution, specifically highlighting the unequal treatment of Catholic schools when compared to other private school preschool programs.
Catholic News Agency reports:
The State of Colorado’s program to fund universal preschool unconstitutionally excludes Catholic preschools that want to participate in the program, according to a lawsuit filed on behalf of two Denver-area parishes and the Archdiocese of Denver.
The lawsuit concerns Colorado’s universal preschool program, created in 2022, that offers eligible families at least 15 hours per week of free preschool for every participating child, according to the program website.
The suit maintains that the state’s rules requiring participating schools “to accept any applicant without regard to a student or family’s religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity” violate the schools’ First Amendment rights.
“Colorado did not have to create a universal preschool funding program, but in doing so it cannot implement that program in a way that excludes certain religious groups and providers based on their sincerely held religious beliefs,” said the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado by attorneys with the Becket legal group.
The lawsuit’s plaintiffs are St. Mary Catholic Parish in Littleton and St. Bernadette Catholic Parish in Lakewood, both in the Denver metro area, as well as the Archdiocese of Denver.
The lawsuit objects that the program rules are unconstitutional and exclude Catholic schools but not the preschool programs of other private schools.
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