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Thu Apr 19, 2018, 03:11 PM

Good News: FFRF win: N.J. Supreme Court upholds bar on funds to repair churches

A major court victory by the Freedom From Religion Foundation will save New Jersey taxpayers many millions of dollars by terminating an unconstitutional boondoggle.

The New Jersey Supreme Court, in a 7-0 decision today, upheld the state Constitution’s ban against taxpayer funds being used for “building or repairing any church or churches.” In Freedom From Religion Foundation v. Morris County, FFRF and member David Steketee filed suit in late 2015 against the county, challenging public grants of millions of tax dollars to repair or maintain churches. The state high court’s ruling corrected a lower court’s shocking refusal to apply the state Constitution’s plain command.

FFRF and Steketee originally protested more than $5.5 million in funding to churches since 2012 by the Historic Preservation Trust Fund. The lawsuit specifically challenged $1.04 million in allotments to Presbyterian Church in Morristown, which, in the words of the church, would allow “continued use by our congregation for worship services,” as well as disbursements to St. Peter’s Episcopal Church to ensure “continued safe public access to the church for worship.” All of the churches that received the grants have active congregations.

“This is not just a win for secular citizens, but for every New Jersey taxpayer,” explains FFRF constitutional attorney Andrew L. Seidel. “Governments in New Jersey cannot force Muslims to bankroll temples and yeshivas, compel Jews to subsidize Christian churches and Catholic schools, force Christians to fund mosques and madrassas or nonbelievers to support any religion. It’s a win for all.”

Full Article

We are lucky to have an organization like the FFRF.

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Response to Cuthbert Allgood (Original post)

Thu Apr 19, 2018, 03:17 PM

1. Torn. I do not want the historic preservation trust fund misused, but

But, I believe there are religious buildings with historic value that should be preserved.
I do not know anything about the historic value, if any, of the New Jersey churches mentioned.

FYI, I am a non-believer and generally support the FFRF

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Response to Freethinker65 (Reply #1)

Thu Apr 19, 2018, 04:08 PM

3. I think it would be different if they were no longer churches.

Though I only know what is at the article linked. If they are still functioning as churches, then it's on the parish to pay for it, in my opinion. If it stops functioning as a church, then the government can take it over and preserve it if it is one that needs to be preserved. Just random thoughts at this point. Maybe someone knows more than I.

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Response to Freethinker65 (Reply #1)

Thu Apr 19, 2018, 09:25 PM

6. I like to see the old buildings preserved, too

but churches should not be receiving public funds to pay their expenses. If they can't afford to keep up their buildings, they should sell the property to someone who can.

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Response to Mariana (Reply #6)

Thu Apr 19, 2018, 09:48 PM

8. Im even OK with them keeping it

If they were no longer using the building for services and were keeping it purely for historical purposes and public access, then it might be appropriate for the taxpayer to support that endeavor. However if the are using it to support the church itself, it’s impossible to keep those two interests separate.

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Response to Major Nikon (Reply #8)

Thu Apr 19, 2018, 10:24 PM

10. My town recently voted to purchase a truly unique old mansion

in order to prevent it from being bulldozed and a bunch of fugly McMansions built on the property. I'm not sure what the town plans to do with it. People are already using the lawn as a park. I don't like the idea of preserving buildings just to be preserving them, they should be used. One nearby town bought an old church and turned it into a library annex. I like that.

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Response to Cuthbert Allgood (Original post)

Thu Apr 19, 2018, 03:23 PM

2. Good! Let churches foot the bill to preserve their own buildings.

We all subsidize them enough already! Their tax exemptions already save them millions for which everyone else has to pick up the slack!

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Response to Cuthbert Allgood (Original post)

Thu Apr 19, 2018, 04:15 PM

4. I do not believe in a transcendent diety. But I do know one of the churches that received money.

It has a beautiful stained glass window and the frame of the window was crumbling because of water leaking into the roof. The cost to repair the roof and stabilize the window was somewhere around 150k

I wish I knew how to post a photo of the window.

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Response to 3Hotdogs (Reply #4)

Thu Apr 19, 2018, 09:28 PM

7. Who was responsible for letting the leak go on

long enough to cause the frame to rot so badly? Was anyone held responsible in any way for allowing that much damage to occur?

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Response to Mariana (Reply #7)

Thu Apr 19, 2018, 10:18 PM

9. It is a church that was built when the parish had money. Wealthy parishoners moved out decades ago.

While they are not at the bake sale level, they are close.

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Response to Cuthbert Allgood (Original post)

Thu Apr 19, 2018, 04:45 PM

5. WOW 7-0...that was a definite decision.

Good for them. I hoped my FFRF donations were being used well. If churches want money from the citizens they have a choice...I am pro choice. They can stop being hypocrites and say , "OK, we will start to pay taxes like all other businesses do and then maybe the govt will help with repairs and maintenance since we are preserving historic landmarks or artwork" OR "We follow the constitution and the separation of church and state, therefore we will not pay taxes and will repair and maintain our places of worship". It is a choice. If they choose to not pay taxes then they can have more car washes, bake sales, and ask for more in the collection plate. Of course they can always do what the evangelicals do and go to the NRA and Russia for the money.

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