March 5, 2019 | NJ.COM
A New Jersey county cannot use taxpayer funds to fix up old churches after the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday said it would not take on the case.
The justices rejected an appeal by the Morris County freeholder board, which sought to overturn a state Supreme Court ruling that stopped historic preservation grants from going to 12 churches in the county.
“Excluding religious organizations from historic preservation programs is religious discrimination of the first order,” said Eric Baxter, vice president and senior counsel at Becket, which represented the county.
New Jersey’s highest court ruled in April 2018 ruled that the state constitution’s religious aid clause prohibited using taxpayer funds to fix up the churches. The clause, which had its origins in first state constitution adopted on July 2, 1776, was left “virtually untouched” when the constitution was updated in the late 1940s, the state justices said. . . .
[T]hree U.S. Supreme Court justices, Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch and Samuel Alito, issued a statement accompanying the decision not to hear the case.
The justices said the state ruling was “in serious tension” with Supreme Court precedents on religious equality.
“At some point, this court will need to decide whether governments that distribute historic preservation funds may deny funds to religious organizations simply because the organizations are religious,” the justices said.
At the same time, the justices agreed with the decision not to hear this particular case, saying that the Morris County program did not clearly spell out the criteria for obtaining such grants. (Excerpted from NJ.com)