The Supreme Court will not consider a case which would have raised questions about the separation of church and state. The court ruled unanimously against granting certiorari in the case The Presbyterian Church in Morristown v. Freedom From Religion Foundation on Monday, March 4.
The case concerned the question of whether churches or other active religious buildings in New Jersey were eligible for taxpayer money designated for historic preservation.
Although all nine justices voted against hearing the case, three of the justices--Justices Brett Kavanaugh, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch--issued comments saying the court would have to consider the issue at some point in the near future.
Kavanaugh, the newest member of the Supreme Court, issued an opinion in which he said that preventing religious organizations from accessing grants for historic preservation was “pure discrimination against religion,” and raised “serious questions under this court’s precedents and the Constitution’s fundamental guarantee of equality.”
In 2018, the New Jersey State Supreme Court ruled that Morris County could not issue historic preservation grants to 12 churches located in the county. The county appealed this ruling to the Supreme Court.
The county had previously issued such grants until 2015, until a suit was filed arguing that the practice was a violation of the Establishment Clause, since government money was granted to repair actively operating churches.
The plaintiff in that case was represented by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a self-described “National non prophet nonprofit” that promotes the separation of church and state.
Attorneys for the foundation argued that the New Jersey State Constitution forbids taxpayer dollars from going to religious organizations.
In a press release published on its website, the foundation called the Supreme Court’s decision a “big triumph for the rights of hardworking New Jersey folks.”
In his opinion, Kavanaugh said that “the court will need to decide whether a government that distributes historic preservation funds may deny funds to religious organizations simply because the organizations are religious.”
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