Colorado Governors’ Prayer Proclamations Violate State Constitution, Says Americans United

Church-State Watchdog Group Tells State Supreme Court To Uphold Appeals Court Ruling

Several Colorado governors violated the state constitution by declaring a Colorado Day of Prayer, Americans United for Separation of Church and State told the Colorado Supreme Court in a friend-of-the-court brief.

The brief was filed Friday afternoon in support of the plaintiffs in Freedom From Religion Foundation v. Hickenlooper.

Americans United explains that the Preference Clause of the Colorado Constitution forbids Colorado governors from favoring any religious practice or tradition.

The brief elaborates: “The Governor’s proclamations give preference to one particular ‘mode of worship’—prayer. In addition, the content of the proclamations reveals an official preference for some religious faiths over others, as the proclamations include quotes from the Bible and promote themes that reflect particular religious views.”

Asserted the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director, “The state constitution is very clear: the governor’s office cannot favor religious practices or groups. By proclaiming a Colorado Day of Prayer using sectarian language, that’s exactly what the governor has done. The court should rule against the governor’s office.”

Americans United Associate Legal Director Alex J. Luchenitser added, “It is not the business of government to tell people how they should worship, or whether they should do so at all.  Religion is a deeply personal matter that should be left to each individual in accordance with their own conscience, free from government interference or exhortations.”

An appeals court had ruled that the governors’ proclamations represented an unlawful government endorsement of religion. The governor’s administration then appealed that ruling to the state’s supreme court.

The brief was drafted by University of Denver Sturm College of Law professors Alan K. Chen, Mark Hughes, and Justin Pidot, with contributions from Americans United’s Luchenitser, American Civil Liberties Union Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief Senior Staff Attorney Heather L. Weaver and ACLU of Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein. The ACLU and the ACLU of Colorado also joined the brief.

Americans United 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 safeguarding religious freedom.