Parents Call on Archdiocese to Abandon Lawsuit Against Colorado’s Pre-K Program

Two Catholic parents have urged the Archdiocese of Denver to withdraw its lawsuit against Colorado over LGBTQ+ nondiscrimination protections in the state’s universal pre-K program. The couple, who have a child enrolled in one of the preschools named in the lawsuit, are pushing for a more reconciliatory approach.

The controversy arose when providers participating in Colorado’s universal preschool program were required to adhere to state non-discrimination laws to receive funding. These laws prevent providers from discriminating based on sexual orientation, religious affiliation, or gender identity.

The Archdiocese of Denver and two of its parishes that run preschools—St. Mary in Littleton and St. Bernadette’s in Lakewood—filed a lawsuit against the state in federal district court last year. They argued that the non-discrimination requirement violated their religious liberty by compelling them to hire LGBTQ+ educators or enroll LGBTQ+ families.

Although Colorado’s universal preschool program includes a variety of providers, including faith-based institutions, the two Catholic preschools in the lawsuit opted out. The archdiocese claimed the state unlawfully excluded its 26 preschools from the UPK program due to their religious stance against teaching LGBTQ+ people and families.

Beth Mueller Stewart and Dan Stewart, parents of two children, one of whom attends Wellspring Catholic Academy of St. Bernadette, expressed their concerns in a letter to Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila, Fr. Joe McLagan, pastor of St. Bernadette’s, and Avery Coats, the school’s principal.

The Stewarts wrote that the lawsuit “disturbs our consciences at the deepest level,” urging the archdiocese to “pursue a more reconciliatory path.” They emphasized their solidarity with LGBTQ individuals and noted that many LGBTQ loved ones continue to practice Catholicism.

“The lawsuit’s impact is already devastating for LGBTQ people and their loved ones—Catholics and non-Catholics alike—as well as the Church itself,” the letter stated. “The message to these families is clear: you are not welcome.”

The Stewarts highlighted the dilemma the lawsuit has created for them, forcing them to choose between supporting the lawsuit by keeping their child in the school or leaving to stand in solidarity with their LGBTQ loved ones. As a result, they decided not to re-enroll their child for the upcoming fall semester.

In January, attorneys for the two Catholic preschools argued that enrolling children from LGBTQ+ families conflicted with their religious beliefs. Families who testified said they could have saved thousands of dollars if their Catholic preschools had participated in UPK.

The judge has dismissed the Denver Archdiocese as a plaintiff but has not yet issued a final ruling.