Anti-racist work in Colorado Springs

The loss of so many lives at the hands of police violence has caused unspeakable pain to communities across the country. The recent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others bring new attention to this reality, yet none of this pain is new- the US is founded upon violence toward Black people and other communities of color. This national pain echoes the same violence, discrimination, and lack of accountability we have seen in our own community. We saw the murders of De’Von Bailey, Joshua Vigil, and Virgil Thorpe- plus so many others- all in the span of a ...

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Democracy in the Time of COVID-19

In these unprecedented times, much is at risk, including our democracy. The Colorado Legislative Session has been put on hold until March 30, and will likely meet again next week only long enough to vote to extend the break. Although all sides agree that lawmaking must be put on hold for the sake of public safety, there is disagreement on how the session will continue. Will the session be resumed later on to ensure 120 consecutive days of lawmaking? Or will a special session be called, limiting the issues that can be addressed during the session? No matter what the ...

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Know Your Rights: Interacting with Law Enforcement

Earlier this month, Citizens Project cohosted a training with the ACLU of Colorado called Know Your Rights- Interactions with Law Enforcement. Jessica Howard from the ACLU came down to Colorado Springs from Denver to give a training on how people can protect themselves from police harassment and dangerous interactions, in addition to how bystanders can help de-escalate and monitor police encounters. This conversation comes at a vital time in Colorado Springs, after the police murder of De’Von Bailey this summer. This conversation is only one small piece in the work ...

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Religious prejudice torpedoes Navy chaplain

By Ken Burrows In March this year, a chaplain with a master’s degree from a Texas Christian University Divinity School and a theological history degree from Oxford University was refused an appointment as U.S. Navy Chaplain, despite the fact that a Navy Chaplain Advisory Board had initially approved the appointment. Why the rejection? A key factor appears to have been pressure from 22 U.S. Senators and 45 members of the U.S. House who claimed chaplain Jason Heap was not religious enough because he is a humanist. In that same month a U.S. District Court ordered ...

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No easy answer when it’s religion vs. health care

by Ken Burrrows In his October 2017 Memorandum on Federal Law Protections for Religious Liberty, Attorney General Jeff Sessions stated that religious freedom must specifically include “the right to act or abstain from action in accordance with one’s religious beliefs.” [emphasis in original] His memo went on to suggest that religious freedom should be virtually free of restraint or compromise, a sort of super right above all other rights. But other freedoms in America that are deeply cherished are subject to select limitations. Freedom of speech famously does ...

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POINT/COUNTERPOINT: Should government require a Colorado bakery to design cakes for gay weddings?

Citizens Project executive director Deb Walker wrote this piece for The Gazette on December 3, 2017: Deb Walker It's not about cake. It's also not about religious freedom. At its core, the Masterpiece Cakeshop vs. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case that will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court is about whether businesses should be able to discriminate against people because of who they are and whether all people will be treated equally, as is promised by the Constitution. The outcome of this case will be critical to civil rights for all and could undermine ...

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“Religious liberty” according to Jeff Sessions means protecting some while harming others

by Ken Burrows Note: Be sure to read information on the Do No Harm Act at the end of this article, a bill that would prevent many of the negative consequences of Jeff Sessions’ guidance on religious liberty.\ On October 6, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, acting on instruction from President Donald Trump, issued guidance on interpreting religious liberty protections in federal law by releasing a 25-page memorandum and appendix on the matter. This document, directed to “all administrative agencies and executive departments,” is, as expected, uniformly deferential ...

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Citizens Project: These are the values of the Pikes Peak region

This letter was published in the August 22, 2017 Gazette and August 23 Colorado Springs Independent in response to recent national and local hate speech. Our collective national attention has been consumed by the appalling behavior and rhetoric in Charlottesville, motivated by hatred and bigotry. We should not forget, though, that in our community we have recently brushed with the same dangerous ideology and behavior, which should have already been relegated to the shadows of history. On one recent night a synagogue was defaced with anti-Semitic symbols and property ...

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The Sanctity of Human Life Act: Politicians Playing God

by Ken Burrows A group of thirty-one Republican US congressmen (yes, all men, as of this writing) have signed on as cosponsors of a bill to declare that human life “begins with fertilization…at which time every human being shall have all the legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood.” The bill, H.R. 586, has been titled the “Sanctity of Human Life Act” (SHLA). Such “personhood bills” are nearly always religiously driven and have a primary (though unstated) goal of making virtually all abortions illegal. And while personhood bills ...

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We’re losing the fire of our Founders on church-state separation

By Ken Burrows When the Supreme Court of the U.S. (SCOTUS) on June 26th ruled 7-2 that it was unconstitutional to exclude Trinity Lutheran Church from being eligible for public funding of its playground surface improvements, the church-state separation wall did not collapse, but it took a hit. Chief Justice John Roberts limited the damage somewhat by stating in his majority opinion that “This case involves express discrimination based on religious identity with respect to playground resurfacing. We do not address religious uses of funding or other forms of discrimin...

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