DENVER (KDVR) — An appellate brief was filed on Monday with the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of Mark Janny, by the Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and DLA Piper LLP (US), a law firm.
The appeal argues that a federal district court wrongly dismissed Janny’s case, in which he asserted violations of his First Amendment rights. The defendant represented himself.
Janny, an atheist, claims that in February 2015 his parole was revoked after he refused to take part in worship services, Bible studies and religious counseling mandated by the Denver Rescue Mission, a Christian homeless shelter. The appeal claims that Colorado Department of Corrections Parole Officer John Gamez required him to live at the shelter.
Janny claims he asked to be excused from religious programming or to be permitted to live elsewhere. When Janny ultimately declined to attend worship services, he claims Gamez revoked his parole, and Janny was jailed for another five months.
“Throwing someone behind bars for refusing to attend church services is blatantly unconstitutional. Government officials can’t abuse their positions of power to convert parolees, or anyone else, to their preferred faith,” said Daniel Mach, director of the ACLU’s Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief.