The Supreme Court is seen in the early morning on Feb. 1, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

High court declines New Jersey preservation grants case

WASHINGTON (AP) — Three conservative Supreme Court justices say barring synagogues, temples, churches and mosques from programs that award money for preservation work is discrimination.

The statement from Justice Brett Kavanaugh, joined by Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch, came as the court declined Monday to take up a case from New Jersey that raised the issue of preservation grants to religious buildings.

Kavanaugh wrote that he agreed with the court's decision not to hear the New Jersey case, but he said that at some point the justices "will need to decide whether governments that distribute historic preservation funds may deny funds to religious organizations simply because the organizations are religious."

"Barring religious organizations because they are religious from a general historic preservation grants program is pure discrimination against religion," he wrote.

Kavanaugh wrote that there were two main reasons to wait on taking the issue. He said the factual details of the Morris County program "are not entirely clear." And he said the justices should wait until more courts have had a chance to apply a 2017 Supreme Court decision involving the exclusion of a church from a state program. That decision said a Missouri church had the same right as other charitable groups to seek state money for a new playground surface and couldn't be denied money solely because it is a religious institution.

The case the justices had been asked to hear comes from New Jersey's Morris County. In 2002, county voters authorized the creation of a historic preservation program funded by a county property tax. Religious institutions were among those eligible for grants.

The Madison, Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation sued, and New Jersey's highest court ruled that the grant program violated the state's constitution. New Jersey's constitution says that no person should have to pay taxes "for building or repairing any church or churches, place or places of worship, or for the maintenance of any minister or ministry."

The Supreme Court's decision not to take the case leaves that ruling in place.


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  2. Kavanaugh continues to show why he is entirely unsuitable for his position.

    Churches don’t pay taxes, they are not entitled to tax money.

  3. What the hell happened to the NO establishment of religion clause of the 1st amendment? Kavanaugh, Gorsuch and Alito want to turn America into a theocracy!

  4. Ha! Morris County Freeloaders got caught with their hands in the cookie jar, trying to raid the preservation fund. What a bunch of chumps..Then they let that gang of Becket Fund attorneys roughshod over them, claiming that that they would cover for them “pro bono”. Now comes the day when they must pay for their larceny. Hooray for FFRF.

  5. Poor people don’t pay taxes, they are not entitled to tax money.

    Is there anyone in there?

  6. The First Amendment never prohibited states and localities from preserving historically significant structures regardless of their use.

  7. FFRF is a scam set up specifically to provide Anne Nicol Gaylor, and now her daughter Annie Laurie Gaylor and her hubby a nice living.

    It relies on other entities to actually do the legal work, and then claims “victories” to keep the income stream flowing.

  8. You need to forgive him…
    He’s just running a loop of talking points.

  9. The groups that maintain the religious structures should open multiple PAC’s and funnel cash into a private company like Alexandra Ocasio Cortez’s campaign manager did.
    When she said green deal – she meant Benjamin green.

  10. They already do. Conservative churches even drop the pretense of being churches and act like PAC’s. It is why they hate the Johnson Amendment so much, despite hardly being enforced.

  11. They always fail to mention to their clients that:
    1. The case is being taken strictly for fundraising purposes. Adequate representation is merely a happy accident
    2. In most cases they are on the hook for the adversary’s legal expenses when they lose.

  12. Its much easier to be consistent when one doesn’t have to lie so often like Shawnie, Mark/Bob/Art/Jose and yourself.

  13. How preserving historically important buildings establish religion?

  14. If you’re arguing that someone who does not know the difference between reality and unreality cannot lie, and offering yourself as an example, I would tend to agree with you Vladonald/Elagabalus/Ben/etc..

  15. Please support “Conservative churches even drop the pretense of being churches and act like PAC’s” with some evidence.

  16. But the First Ammendment singled out religions and set them apart, so to speak. Handing over money to them to restore places of worship is not same as other restorations due to this relationship.

  17. FFRF has 9 staff attorneys that do 95% of the legal case loads. They are helping to keep State/Mythology separate.

  18. Freedom From Religion Foundation has three attorneys: Rebecca S. Markert is the Legal Director, and actually does some legal work; Patrick Elliott is a staff attorney who supports her; Andrew L. Seidel is the Director of Strategic Response, which essentially means Propaganda Minister.

    It has a rotation of part-time legal fellows who do drafting and research for Ms. Markert and Mr. Elliott.

    The bulk of its actual casework is done by the ACLU or American United for Separation of Church and State.

    Here is its most recent Federal Form 990:

  19. That certainly is the question that the Supreme Court has yet to answer, isn’t it?

    I don’t see the problem if the building is of historical significance.

    The brief of the National Trust for Historic Preservation for this case provides a good summary of the conflicting case law on the issue at the state level:

  20. They don’t just “want” to. They are going to—–unless, only unless, Roberts decides to save his Court and his Country. The other four on the conservative side are completely hopeless hacks.

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