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Coalition of Colorado religious charities unites against discrimination bill

.- Several faith-based organizations are protesting a proposed Colorado law that would forbid charities which receive government funds from using religious-based hiring standards.

Ten organizations gathered on the steps of the state capitol on Wednesday, including the Catholic Archdiocese of Denver, the Protestant-evangelical group Focus on the Family, and Avista Adventist Hospital, run by the Seventh-day Adventists.  They expressed their opposition to House Bill 1080, calling it "a drastic departure from Colorado state law."  The bill removes religious organizations’ existing exemption from anti-discrimination measures if the organizations accept government funding.

Christopher Rose, CEO of Catholic Charities of Denver, said the organization “would seriously look at ending our partnerships with all governments” if the bill passes, according to the Rocky Mountain News.  Rose said refusing government funding would mean the charity would have to close a homeless shelter for veterans and end childcare and mental health counseling programs for the working poor 

Catholic Charities, the region’s largest private, nonprofit social services provider, uses $12.7 million in government funds, out of a total budget of $30 million.

Jim Pfaff, CEO of Colorado Family Institute, said the bill would end mutually beneficial partnerships between religious groups and state and local governments. 

"Historically, government encouraged such groups because they were successful precisely because of their religious beliefs," Pfaff said.  "Government is responsible to protect the free exercise of religion, both public and private.”

The Colorado House Majority Leader and bill sponsor Alice Madden, a Democrat representing Boulder, distributed a statement responding to the protests.  "(The bill) will not change the real world practices of organizations such as Catholic Charities," her statement said.

She also promised to address the concerns of the charitable organizations. 

Last year Colorado state law added sexual orientation and religion to categories covered by anti-discrimination regulations.

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