May 02, 2018

The New Jersey Supreme Court today ruled on a case concerning taxpayer grants that the state awarded in 2013 to two institutions with missions focused on religious training. The court remanded the issue to the New Jersey Secretary of Higher Education to consider more closely the facts of the case, giving advocates from Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, the ACLU-NJ and the national ACLU an opportunity to present details regarding the religious nature of the institutions and their planned use of the grant funds.

In 2013, the administration of Gov. Chris Christie pledged $10.6 million to Beth Medrash Govoha and $645,323 to Princeton Theological Seminary. In addition to violating the New Jersey Constitution’s prohibition on taxpayer funding going to maintain a ministry, the funding violates the state’s Law Against Discrimination by giving taxpayer money to institutions that limit their enrollment to members of sectarian faiths, and, in the yeshiva’s case, comprise a student body that consists only of Orthodox Jewish men.

“The court has now afforded us the opportunity to show that taxpayer-funded grants to the yeshiva and seminary would go to support religious education and training, which New Jersey’s Constitution forbids,” said Alex J. Luchenitser, Americans United’s associate legal director. “We believe the facts are on our side: Both the yeshiva and seminary train ministers of their respective faiths and teach from a sectarian point of view. Taxpayer dollars cannot support that.”

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.

(Photo: Princeton Theological Seminary's Stuart Hall. Credit: Djkeddie via Wikimedia Commons.)