New Jersey Court Ruling – Separation of Church & State

New Jersey Statehouse - Trenton, NJ - File Photo
New Jersey Statehouse – Trenton, NJ – File Photo


A New Jersey court has ruled that grants of $10.6 million dollars to a yeshiva in Lakewood and nearly $650,000 to the Princeton Theological Seminary are unconstitutional. As a basis for their rulings, they relied on the Constitution’s prohibition against using tax dollars to pay for religious institutions.  

Officials who promoted these grants argued that they were intended for libraries and other presumably non-religious-specific uses. The New Jersey court disagreed. In so doing, it set a precedent in New Jersey.

The Court’s decision with regard to the Yeshiva did not broach the subject of the public school system in question or the proportion of students who attend them. It was a simply constitutionally based argument.

With the East Ramapo Central School District as one prime example of money being doled out to religious Yeshivas over public schools, we think it is about time that the same arguments be used to stop the financing of Yeshivas, to the detriment of public school children. The argument is simple: this country was founded on the separation of church and state and that foundation should be protected. The alternative is, in our view, not sustainable.

If, for the sake of argument, the Court had taken into consideration the proportion of students attending the Lakewood school over those in the public school system on the whole, a Constitutionally based decision was still available. Any school that does not teach non-religious based classes which provide an equal education to student as those in public schools should be denied tax dollars. In East Ramapo, the children who are being harmed most are those children within the public school system. The people who are being harmed the most on the whole are the taxpayers of New York.

Another argument, also Constitutionally based, could be made in New York, namely an equal treatment argument on a tax-based public policy foundation. Either way, New York should do its children and its taxpayers a service, rule against funding of private Yeshivas or any religious focused schools. Only then, in our view, will a way of life be protected within the State of New York and will the livelihoods of those most adversely affected be sustainable. Alternatively, we may all need to pack our bags and go.

Just our thoughts on the matter. 

NJ Court: State Can’t Give $11 Million In Grants To Religious Schools

TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A court has ruled that New Jersey cannot give $11 million in grants to two religious schools.

The state appeals court ruled Thursday that the $10.6 million grant to Beth Medrash Govoha yeshiva in Lakewood and $645,323 to the Princeton Theological Seminary are unconstitutional.

The $10.6 million to Beth Medrash Govoha was granted for a library, research center and new academic space in an existing building. Princeton Theological Seminary was granted the money to upgrade library information technology and a training room and to remodel a conference room.

The American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State had challenged the grants, made as part of $1.3 billion in grants in April 2013.

The lawsuit claimed the grants violated the state constitution’s prohibitions against using taxpayer money for places of worship and giving preference to a religion, as well as violate its stipulation that public money be used for public purposes. In addition, the suit stated the grant awarded to the Beth Medrash Govoha, an all-male Talmudic studies center, violates state law against discrimination based on gender.

New Jersey officials argued that the grants were okay because they were meant to pay for buildings and equipment, not worship or ministries.

Thursday’s ruling sets a precedent for New Jersey when it comes to the determining what institutions fall under the qualifications of a “ministry.”



By Star-Ledger Editorial Board
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on May 30, 2016 at 6:30 AM, updated May 30, 2016 at 8:36 AM

The separation between church and state is occasionally blurred, especially with funding for parochial schools, as New Jersey often provides aid in the form of textbooks and busing for religious institutions.

But this bedrock provision is clear: The state’s constitution forbids subsidizing the building of facilities where religious instruction takes place.

So the ACLU sued to block the Christie Administration from awarding $11 million to a rabbinical school and a ministry in 2013. And while its case was based largely on sex discrimination, an appeals court last week voided both grants because these are sectarian institutions, not liberal arts schools with some religious instruction.

Most of the money was to fund capital projects at Beth Medrash Gohova, the large yeshiva in Lakewood. The fact that the area community can deliver a large bloc of Orthodox votes seemed more than coincidental: The community endorsed Gov. Christie when he ran for reelection in 2013.

This is a good starting point: Tax dollars shouldn’t go to schools that discriminate on religious grounds.

Indeed, the administration asked for this defeat. When a bond referendum raised $1.3 billion for state colleges that year, the Secretary of Higher Education went before the Senate Budget Committee and would not explain allocation criteria. It was information we were not entitled to have, Christie figured.

To read the entire editorial click here.


7 thoughts on “New Jersey Court Ruling – Separation of Church & State

  1. This was based on their state constitution. Let’s see more of this based on the United States Constitution.

  2. BMG just put up a huge multimillion dollar building on their campus funded entirely by people who wanted their names on the front. Why the hell should they every receive any state money?

    BMG is also the largest land holder in Lakewood, owning hundreds of acres of land and thousands of apartments throughout the town.

  3. This is GREAT NEWS! BMG doesn’t need public tax money and has BILLIONS (yes, I said BILLIONS) in assets. They had a lot of nerve even applying for the grant by telling the government that their institution is open to all races and religions. Well, as long as you have gelt I guess that’s true.

  4. Didn’t John Flanagan recently gives hundreds of thousands of dollars to Yeshivas on Long Island? Why is that any different?

  5. Again, were these institutions to actually use the money fir the stated purpose………I’d be more inclined to be sympathetic to their cause. If Harvard can get federal $’s to improve technology for its students…….why can’t Trinity University.

    That said – there have been WAY too many instances where $’s earmarked for secular infrastructure and improvements at religious institutions have been misappropriated and used for purposes directly related to the “mission”.

    • Uh… you think? Yes, there is always abuse of federal funds by yeshivas going all the way back to the 60’s milk scandal.

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