In April 2013, the administration of New Jersey’s then-Governor Chris Christie released a list of higher-education construction projects that it planned to fund through a $750 million voter-approved bond issue. Among the universities scheduled to receive money from the state were two theological institutions, Beth Medrash Govoha and Princeton Theological Seminary. The former, an orthodox Jewish yeshiva located in Lakewood, was slated to receive $10.6 million for the construction of a new academic center and library; the latter, a Presbyterian Christian seminary in Princeton, was slated to receive $645,323 from the state. The two schools are dedicated to immersing students in religious study and preparing students to become clergy members or religious educators.
In June 2013, we filed a lawsuit (joined by the ACLU of New Jersey and the national ACLU) to stop the State from awarding these taxpayer-funded grants to the theological schools, arguing that the grants violated provisions of the New Jersey Constitution that prohibit the use of taxpayer funds to support religious education. We filed an amended complaint in December 2013, adding an allegation that the grants violated New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination because Beth Medrash Govoha discriminates in admissions on the basis of religion. In May 2016, a New Jersey intermediate appellate court ruled that providing taxpayer-funded grants to the two religious schools violated the New Jersey Constitution.
In December 2016, the New Jersey State Supreme Court agreed to hear the case. Several amicus curiae briefs were submitted in support of the State in February 2017. We filed a brief responding to those amicus briefs in April 2017. We filed a supplemental brief in September 2017 concerning the impact of a Supreme Court decision relating to public aid to religious institutions. Oral argument was held on October 23, 2017.
In May 2018, the New Jersey Supreme Court held that the record was insufficient to resolve factual disputes between the parties. The Court therefore vacated the judgment of the intermediate appellate court and remanded the case to the state Secretary of Higher Education for further proceedings to develop the factual record.
Princeton Theological Seminary agreed to withdraw its application for funding in April 2019. We then conducted discovery relating to Beth Medrash Govoha yeshiva and the proposed grants to it. In January 2020, on the eve of a week-long evidentiary hearing before an Administrative Law Judge, Beth Medrash Govoha stated that it would no longer pursue the grants through any state processes and withdrew from the administrative proceedings, which we believed brought the litigation to a successful conclusion. In September 2021, however, the state reopened the administrative proceedings at the yeshiva’s request. In December 2021, however, Beth Medrash Govoha unequivocally withdrew its applications for grant funding. Later that month, the Administrative Law Judge overseeing the matter officially closed the case due to Beth Medrash Govoha’s withdrawal.