Lawsuit Restricts NJ Grants from Going to Religious Schools

New Jersey can’t give $11 million in grants to religious schools.

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey is a nonpartisan, non-profit civil rights organization in Newark, New Jersey. The organization typically intervenes in civil liberties issues relating to racial equality, the separation of church and state, free speech, open government, and so on. In 2013, ACLU-NJ filed a lawsuit to stop the state of New Jersey from granting more than $11 million in construction funds to two of the state's prominent religious colleges, Beth Medrash Govoha (BMG), a school that trains orthodox Jewish rabbis, located at Lakewood Township, and Princeton Theological Seminary, a school that trains Christian ministers, located at Princeton. Beth Medrash Govoha is one of the largest ultra-Orthodox yeshivas in the world.

Lawsuit Restricts NJ Grants from Going to Religious Schools[/tweetthis]

Last Thursday May 26, the court ruled in favor of ACLU-NJ, barring the state (N.J. governor Chris Christie's administration) from granting the funds to the two colleges. According to the 3-judge court panel, whose decision has been unanimous, both the seminary and the yeshiva are sectarian institutions. The state has allocated the $1.3 billion in taxpayer funds for campus construction and renovation projects, exclusively, for the 46 universities and colleges in the state. If the two religious colleges are allocated funds, then they would most certainly use it for religious activities as well. The panel also said that the ruling does not mean that the state cannot give funds to religious-affiliated schools whose sectarian mission is broader.

Beth Medrash Govoha was set to receive $10.6 million and the Princeton Theological Seminary, $645,323. Vice President of BMG, Moshe Gleiberman, upon hearing the ruling, expressed his disappointment and said that he is confident the state Supreme Court would reinstate the grant. He said the majority of the 6,800 yeshiva students go into non-clergy professions. Excluding them from the grant solely based on religion amounts to its own type of discrimination. It hurts everybody, not only just the Jewish students. Gleiberman further said that the grant would have gone into the construction of a library and a research center for the college.

Attorney General, Leland Moore's Office refused to comment on the court's ruling.

ACLU-NJ hailed the ruling as a major victory against the sponsorship of religion by the government. The legal director for the ACLU-NJ, Ed Barocas, said that the court's decision is a victory for the taxpayers of New Jersey. According to him, it is important for the taxpayers of New Jersey to know that their money would never be responsible for propping up particular sector's religious ministries.


Follow the Conversation on Twitter