Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Suit Challenges State Construction Grants To Religious Higher Education Entities

The ACLU yesterday announced the filing of a state court lawsuit seeking to prevent the state of New Jersey from providing construction grants to two sectarian religious institutions of higher education --an Orthodox Jewish rabbinical school and a Presbyterian seminary. The complaint (full text) in American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey v. Hendricks, (NJ Super. Ct., filed 6/24/2013),  claims that the grants violate three provisions of the New Jersey Constitution that ban taxing to support religious institutions, ban spending government funds on private entities and prohibit the establishment of religion. The suit also claims that in making the grant to the rabbinical school New Jersey is violating the state law against discrimination because it is supporting an all-male institution and thus conferring special benefits on an organization that discriminates on the basis of sex. Beth Medrash Govoha, the rabbinical school, is scheduled to receive a $10.5 million grant for construction of a new library and academic space in an existing building. Princeton Theological Seminary is in line for a much smaller grant, just over $645,000, from technology infrastructure funds. The state legislature has until June 28 to reject the grants proposed by the governor's office.