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U.S. Supreme Court Rejects Appeal: Tax Dollars Can't Fix Old Morris County Churches

Church of the Redeemer, Morristown
Church of the Redeemer, Morristown Photo Credit: Church of the Redeemer FACEBOOK

Tax dollars won't be put toward repairing old churches in Morris County.

U.S. Supreme Court justices on Monday rejected an appeal made last September by the county's freeholder board (represented by Becket) seeking to overturn a state ruling that stops historic preservation grants from sprucing up 12 area churches.

Justices Kavanaugh, Alito, and Gorsuch, however, said barring the religious sites from a historic preservation program causes "serious tension with this Court’s religious equality precedents.”

Morris County's historic preservation fund was created in 2002, which requires applicants to show that they are on the national historic registry.

Between 2012 and 2015, the county provided grants to 55 religious and nonreligious buildings, according to Becket.

Morris County was sued by Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) in 2015, saying that allowing churches to participate in the program is a violation of the New Jersey Constitution.

The state's Supreme Court ruled in favor of FFRF last April.

State justices said the clause had been "virtually untouched" when the state's constitution from July 1776 was updated in the late 1940s, according to NJ.com.

The media outlet published the following statement from Chief Justice Stuart Rabner:

“The churches are not being denied grant funds because they are religious institutions; they are being denied public funds because of what they plan to do -- and in many cases have done: use public funds to repair church buildings so that religious worship services can be held there."

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