SAY AMEN, SOMEBODY
A group of historic churches in New Jersey is defending their right before the Garden State’s Supreme Court to participate in a historic preservation grant program to help repair their aging but much loved and very noteworthy buildings. But there’s pushback.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is suing Morris County — which created the helpful program — and seeks to bar the churches from receiving funds to shore up their aging timbers. The Wisconsin-based activist group is described as “a state/church watchdog and voice for freethought (atheism, agnosticism, skepticism).” It claims that church use of the grants violates the New Jersey Constitution.
“Historic buildings are an important part of our country’s fabric, from Boston’s Old North Church where Paul Revere hung two lanterns to the Ebenezer Baptist Church where Martin Luther King Jr. was pastor until his death,” counters Hannah Smith, senior counsel at Becket, a nonprofit public interest law firm which is filing a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of the program and churches.
“Whether a historic building is used for religious or secular purposes should make no difference to whether the building gets public restoration funds,” she notes.