Thursday, May 03, 2018

New Jersey Supreme Court Says More Facts Needed To Decide Religious Capital Grants Challenge

In ACLU of New Jersey v. Hendricks, (NJ Sup. Ct., May 2, 2018), the New Jersey Supreme Court refused to decide on the record before it whether a $10.5 million grant to a Yeshiva and a $635,000 grant to a Christian theological Seminary violate the New Jersey Constitution.  The grants were awarded by the Secretary of Higher Education under  a state program designed to subsidize capital improvement projects at institutions of higher learning. The lower court held that the grants violated the Religious Aid Clause of the state constitution that prohibits using tax monies "for the maintenance of any minister or ministry".  However, the Supreme Court said:
Rather than address a matter of constitutional importance on an insufficiently developed record, the better course is to remand the matter for an evidentiary hearing to bring the relevant factual material into better focus. Among the questions to be explored are ... (1) the sectarian nature of these institutions of higher education; (2) whether, in the setting of the curriculum and training programs of these particular institutions, the grant funds will necessarily be used in the “maintenance of any minister or ministry”; and (3) the adequacy of promised restrictions, or other curbs, against sectarian use of the grant proceeds at present and into the future....
Accordingly, we will remand to the Secretary for the development of a record in accordance with this opinion.
Asbury Park Press reports on the decision.