Goddamnit! I thought I left this kind of bullshit behind when I moved to Colorado from Utah.

Apparently not.

During the 2020s, Colorado has decided to follow the lead of our religiously dominated neighbors to the west when it comes to removing the separation of church and state in public schools.

From teachers now being given the right to place “In God We Trust” banners at the heads of their classrooms, to Governor Polis giving tax dollars to religious schools that espouse bigotry, it seems the times are a changin’ in the Centennial State … and not for the better.

Let’s begin with the most noteworthy of these changes: Governor Polis and the backlash to his Universal Pre-K Program.

Debuting in August 2023, the program was set up to allocate (approximately) $330 million in state funds toward a universal pre-K program that offered more than 24,000 full-day seats. The part of the program that caused an uproar was how the funds would be allocated in conjunction with the portion of Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination law that protects the rights of the LGBTQ+ community.

Because most Christ-based faiths treat their gay brethren as second-class heathens, they wouldn’t be allowed to get any of that sweet, sweet cash. In turn, this really pissed off church leaders that wanted to openly discriminate under the banner of “religious freedom” while still getting a piece of the pie.

It goes without saying that the backlash was swift.

Shortly after Polis’ program was introduced, the Archdiocese of Denver and other plaintiffs brought a lawsuit against the state, arguing the preschools under the archdiocese’s control wished to participate in the publicly funded pre-K program but could not do so as long as they were prohibited from discriminating on the basis of LGBTQ+ status.

It’s important to note that throughout this back-and-forth, Colorado always planned to offer universal preschool classes in a variety of settings, including public school classrooms, private childcare centers, and faith-based preschools. However, the state never planned to let faith-based preschools teach religion during state-funded classes; including lessons on how to successfully become a bigot.

The trial began in January of this year, and within a few days, Polis crumbled and removed the ban on religious instruction. A side-effect to this removal would also allow the school to decide whether or not they accept students who come from LGBTQ+ families. This means that even if you and your partner are devout Catholics who have raised a child in that faith and want to continue those themes throughout their education, your child could easily be declined admittance because your mere existence is “wrong.”

And what was the reason that caused Polis to give into the demands of these churches so quickly? He knew he’d lose …

In 2021, the US Supreme Court heard the case of Carson v. Makin. The case centered around Maine’s tuition assistance program—a program that pays for students to attend private school if their town does not have a public high school. In keeping with the separation of church and state, religious schools were not included to receive these public funds.

Eventually, a lawsuit was filed and made its way to the Supreme Court, which held for the first time that a state MUST fund religious activity as part of an educational aid program. Even though the Supreme Court had rejected efforts to direct government funds for religious uses for decades, the ruling in Carson took a complete 180 and fully established the legality of taxpayer support for religious educational activities. Justice Sonia Sotomayor said in her dissent to the case that the ruling leads “us to a place where separation of church and state becomes a constitutional violation.”

Knowing that the lawyers representing the state aren’t idiots, I’m sure they advised Polis to change the program. I mean, nobody wants to get their ass handed to them in a court of law.

While this legal drama over the universal pre-K program was grabbing the headlines, there was another event that took place in Colorado that also helped erode the separation between church and state that’s also worth discussing.

In December 2023, an El Paso County school board voted 3-2 to approve a resolution encouraging its schools to display the motto “In God We Trust” in classrooms.

Knowing this vote would impact roughly 26,000 students, I’m glad to see that during the meeting there were a few voices of reason. One of these included self-described Christian Cary Carr, who argued against the motto’s placement saying, “My faith does not lead me to believe that I need God placed on the walls in order to show my faith.”

The school board disagreed, making their own impassioned arguments. The three members who voted in favor of the resolution argued the motto is part of the nation’s history, noting that former President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a law that made “In God We Trust” the national motto, created a National Day of Prayer and added “under God” to the pledge of allegiance.

With that level of iron-clad logic, of course the resolution passed …

As I mentioned before, Colorado is slowly morphing into Utah. And since I spent 11 years in their public education system, let me tell you what our kids are in for.

Though religion was never openly discussed in the classroom, the way information was presented to the students by the teacher was definitely shaded in specific ways. This was especially true when it came to history.

Yes, all of the dates, places, people, and events were accurate. However, elements that may have made religion or conservatism look bad were either glossed over completely or were incredibly minimized. For example, I learned that Manifest Destiny—you know, the event that caused the displacement/murder of almost 100 million Native Americans under the guise of divine intervention—was really a “belief held by American leaders that God wanted to move the ‘Indians’ (the PC term at the time) to better land.”

Another one of my favorite distortions of history came from the lessons I received about Franklin D. Roosevelt. Because so many of the programs contained in his New Deal began during the Great Depression of the 1930s, they were barely mentioned. When we were about to start learning about the 1950s and the Korean War, my teacher informed us that all of FDR’s plans were in action by the time the 50s started and they “helped workers by establishing a 40-hour work week and fair pay.”

That’s it.

Nothing about the GI bill (which has helped educate millions of our veterans) was discussed, nothing about the enactment of a minimum/living wage was mentioned, nothing about workers’ rights, just … nothing.

This is exactly what I don’t want to see happen in my new home state.

Having been raised in an educational system that is run with a religious flavor has allowed me certain life experiences that you simply can’t get anywhere else. I’ve witnessed bigotry being tolerated under the guise of “moral correctness” by my classmates more times than can be stomached. I was fed a steady diet of misinformation that took innumerable hours of reading over the span of many years to undo.

And I promise you that if we continue on this current church/state trajectory in Colorado, your kids will “enjoy” witnessing this kind of bullshit as well. It only takes a matter of time.