NJ Supreme Court Rules on Grants to BMG in ACLU v. Hendricks case.

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At 9:59 this morning, the N.J. American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) had in hand an Appellate Division court ruling from 2016 that the State of New Jersey Building our Future Capital Improvement grants awarded five years ago to Princeton Theological Seminary and Beth Medrash Govoha were unconstitutional, and that N.J. law prohibited such grants.  As of 10:01 today, neither of those held true.

This morning, the N.J. Supreme Court ruled that theN.J. Constitution does not categorically prohibit grants to sectarian institutions such as BMG and PTS.

Two years ago, the Appellate Division ruled that the State Constitution barred State grants to BMG and PTS.  The Appellate Division reasoned that the N.J. Supreme Court’s 1978 decision in Resnick v. East Brunswick Township Board of Education did not allow for such State funding.

Today the N.J. Supreme Court disagreed with the Appellate Division, and vacated the Appellate Division ruling.  The Court found that “Resnick’s broad summary language about religious organizations should not be misconstrued,” and that “the issue decided in Resnick is not the same as the question presently before us.”

The Supreme Court concluded that Resnick does not prohibit the awards made by the State to institutions such as BMG and PTS, and vacated the decision of the Appellate Division that had banned the grants to BMG and PTS.  The Court remanded the case back to the Secretary of Education for a clarification of the factual record.

We are ever grateful to Mr. Avi Schick, who has served as tireless pro bono counsel on this matter for us.

While we still have a final hurdle to clear before we see this funding, today’s decision is a central and critical one in favor of religious equality, significantly advancing the rights of sectarian institutions in New Jersey.

 

Rabbi Aaron Kotler

President, Beth Medrash Govoha

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