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Published: Saturday, 7/2/2011

Religious school voucher program sparks suit


DENVER — A Virginia school-choice advocacy group is getting involved in a voucher fight in Colorado’s second-largest school district.

Douglas County in suburban Denver is being sued for instituting a voucher program that parents can use at religious schools.

Three groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, say the program amounts to government sponsorship of religion.

The Institute for Justice, in Arlington, Va., argues that because parents choose the school, Douglas County’s plan doesn’t violate the separation of church and state.

“It’s parents, not government officials, who choose where to send their children,” said Michael Bindas, a lawyer for the group.

In 2004, Colorado’s Supreme Court threw out a state voucher plan similar to Douglas County’s.

Mr. Bindas said that while the state may not direct local schools to send vouchers to parents to use at religious schools, an individual school district such as Douglas County is free to do so.

One of the parents planning to use the vouchers next year, Derrick Doyle, said he can’t afford to send three children to a religious high school without assistance.

Mr. Doyle pointed out that Douglas County allows charter schools and home-schooling.

“We feel like private schools should also be a choice,” he said.

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