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Colorado: Parental, Charity Tax Measures Fail

1996This article is part of CT's digital archives. Subscribers have access to all current and past issues, dating back to 1956.

In an election year when state ballots contained an unusually large number of citizen-initiated ballot measures, Christians nationwide closely watched two referendums in Colorado, where voters rejected proposed state amendments on parental rights and taxation of churches and other nonprofit organizations.

Amendment 17 would have granted parents the right "to direct and control the upbringing, education, values, and discipline of their children." Amendment 11 would have ended property-tax exemptions for a majority of the state's churches, charities, and nonprofits.

Early polls showed Amendment 17, written and supported by Virginia-based Of the People, enjoyed a comfortable lead. The measure promised to give parents a level playing field in battling schools, social service agencies, or other government bodies in child-rearing disputes.

But Amendment 17 went down in a 57-to-43 percent defeat. Amendment supporters were quick to blame the opposition's "scare-tactics" media campaign as well as limited support from pro-family groups such as Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family.

Focus officially supported the measure but did not actively promote it after Bill Armstrong, a conservative Christian and former Republican senator from Colorado, expressed concerns that the measure could harm the state's children.

Protect Our Children, a coalition that opposed Amendment 17, said the measure would lead to lawsuits, enable one parent to dictate a religious curriculum to a public-school classroom, and prevent social service agencies from protecting kids from parental child abuse.

Of the People spent an estimated $400,000 promoting the amendment. The group—most of whose key leaders are conservative Catholics—will continue its efforts ...

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