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The Denver Catholic Archdiocese along with two of its parishes is suing the state over the Colorado Universal Pre-kindergarten (UPK) program that is rolling out this fall to preschools statewide. It joins Buena Vista-based Darren Patterson Christian Academy, a state-licensed Christian preschool facility known as “Busy Bees”. That local facility filed suit against the state in late June, over the state’s anti-discrimination requirement.

The Archdiocese alleges First Amendment violations because while they want the money, they also want to exclude LGBTQ parents, staff, and kids from Archdiocesan preschools. The claim — “the state’s anti-discrimination laws violate their religious beliefs.”

A student completes a drawing during preschool class at CMC. Photo courtesy of Buena Vista School District.

This is similar to the claim made earlier this summer by “Busy Bees”. It claims that meeting the state’s anti-discrimination standards will require the facility to “surrender their religious character, their [particular brand of ] Christian beliefs, and exercise to participate in Colorado’s universal preschool program just like everyone else.”

The state’s voter-approved program is intended to provide every preschool child 15 hours per week of state-funded preschool in the year before they are eligible for kindergarten. To be eligible, though, schools must meet the state’s non-discrimination requirements.

It should be pointed out that the UPK ballot question approved by state voters did not include any approval allowing the preschools getting student funding from the program, to discriminate against who they treat fairly, and which will be excluded. It did not provide voter approval to pick and choose which people will be treated fairly, which children will be excluded because they or their parents are LGBTQ+, or their parents aren’t Catholic.

The Colorado Department of Regulatory Affairs (CCRD) enforces the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA). CADA can be found in parts three (3) through eight (8) of Colorado Revised Statutes (C.R.S.) Title 24, Article 34 starting at section 300. Additionally, CCRD refers to the standards and guidance set out in the State of Colorado Civil Rights Commission Rules and Regulation, found in the Code of Colorado Regulations.

Specific CADA parts:

Part 3 – Colorado Civil Rights Division – Commission – Procedures: C.R.S. § 24-34-301 et seq.

Part 4 – Employment Practices: C.R.S. § 24-34-401 et seq.

Part 5 – Housing Practices: C.R.S. § 24-34-501 et seq.

Part 6 – Discrimination in Places of Public Accommodation: C.R.S. § 24-34-601 et seq.

Part 7 – Discriminatory Advertising: C.R.S. § 24-34-701 et seq.

Part 8 – Persons With Disabilities – Civil Rights: C.R.S. § 24-34-801 et seq.

As Ark Valley Voice pointed out in our June 30 article about the “Busy Bees” lawsuit:

“Some might see this as a case where discriminatory behavior is being presented not just as free speech, but as religious rights; setting up a showdown with the state. But these schools aren’t “just like everyone else; By their own words, they exclude those of whom they don’t approve.

Others point out that this lawsuit, if won, might open the door in Colorado for taxpayer money to flow to private schools, including religious schools, to the detriment of public schools.”