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County wants U.S. Supreme Court to hear church grants case

May 9, 2018

A New Jersey county wants the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a ruling that bars a longstanding practice of giving public historic preservation grants to churches.

Morris County officials voted Monday to have the Washington-based Becket Fund for Religious Liberty file an appeal with the nation’s highest court. But it’s not clear when that will happen.

The New Jersey Supreme Court unanimously ruled last month that the county’s policy violates the state Constitution.

That ruling overturned a lower court decision and precludes churches from getting the state Historic Preservation Trust Fund grants. But it didn’t call for churches that received grants to repay the money.

The lower court had found the state wasn’t promoting religion by giving churches grants. The judge also said excluding churches would be tantamount to withholding general benefits to people on the basis of their religion.

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