Colorado has been one the nation's legal testing grounds for disputes over school prayer, with court rulings that have gone both ways.
Here are three noteworthy Colorado lawsuits involving school prayer and other forms of religious speech at school:
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Windebank v. Academy School District #20
– Since his freshman year at Pine Creek High School near Colorado Springs, Chase Windebank had led prayer meetings with as many as 90 fellow students during designated "open time" class periods of the school day. But in the fall of 2014, Pine Creek administrators shut down the meetings, saying that open periods were for instruction only, not extracurricular activities, according to Alliance Defending Freedom,
a non-profit organization that advocates for religious freedom.
Windebank, then a senior, filed suit in U.S. District Court. He argued that Pine Creek was targeting religious expression, in violation of the First Amendment, because even under the revised rules students were still free to assemble at open time and discuss any subject – except, apparently, religion.
In 2015, as the school year wound down, Windebank dropped his lawsuit and the school discontinued open time entirely. School officials said their decision had nothing to do with the case. Windebank disagreed, telling The Washington Post
he won "a victory for free speech in public schools."
Rivera v. East Otero School District
– A federal court ruled in 1989 that a Colorado public high school could not bar a student from handing out religious literature on school grounds, and that banning the handouts simply because of their religious message was an unjustifiable burden on the student's free speech rights, The First Amendment Center reported.
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Lane v. Owens
– When the state passed a law in 2003 requiring students and teachers to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, which includes the phrase "one nation under God," parents and teachers immediately filed suit and received a restraining order from a U.S. District judge, the American Civil Liberties Union said.
The state legislature backed down and in 2004 rewrote the law to exempt anyone from mandatory participation in the pledge.
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