Friday, May 11, 2012

Colorado Day of Prayer Proclamations Violate State Constitution

In Freedom From Religion Foundations, Inc. v. Hickenlooper, (CO Ct. App., May 10, 2012), the Colorado Court of Appeals held that the governor's Colorado Day of Prayer proclamations issued from 2004 to 2009 are unconstitutional under the Colorado Constitution, Art. II, Sec. 4, that provides: "Nor shall any preference be given by law to any religious denomination or mode of worship."  Applying Colorado's standing rules that are broader than those in federal court, the court held that plaintiffs could bring suit as taxpayers challenging the proclamations.  The court went on to hold that the predominant purpose of the proclamations is to advance religion, and that "a reasonable observer would conclude that these proclamations send the message that those who pray are favored members of Colorado’s political community, and that those who do not pray do not enjoy that favored status." It also held that the precedents permitting legislative prayer do not validate the proclamations. Freedom From Religion Foundation issued a press release announcing the court's decision. [Thanks to Scott Mange for the lead.]