Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Suit Challenges County's Historic Preservation Grants To Churches

Yesterday's Parsippany Daily Record reports that the Freedom From Religion Foundation and a local resident have filed suit in a New Jersey state court challenging the inclusion of churches and houses of worship as recipients of county historic preservation grants from Morris County (NJ).  Some 32% of the $22.6 million in grants since 2003 have gone to churches.  The suit contends that these grants violate Art. I, Sec. 3 of the New Jersey Constitution that provides:
nor shall any person be obliged to pay tithes, taxes, or other rates for building or repairing any church or churches, place or places of worship, or for the maintenance of any minister or ministry, contrary to what he believes to be right or has deliberately and voluntarily engaged to perform.
The county argues that churches should be eligible because of their historic value.  The suit initially seeks a temporary injunction to bar payment of any grants awarded in the past two years that have not yet been disbursed.  In 2014, the county awarded $1.2 million to 12 churches or houses of worship for items such as restoration of roofs or facades, and for document preservation.