Freeholders to Appeal Historic Preservation Case to the U.S. Supreme Court

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Morristown Presbyterian Church

MORRIS COUNTY — The Morris County Board of Freeholders has approved an agreement to have the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty file an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court regarding a recent N.J. Supreme Court ruling that banned the county from issuing historic preservation trust fund grants to religious institutions.

The freeholders, in a unanimous vote at their meeting Butler on May 7, 2018, approved a resolution that calls for Washington D.C. based Beckett to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court at no cost to county taxpayers.

Beckett, as part of the agreement, will pick up all costs associated with the case.

Beckett is a non-profit, public-interest legal and educational institute with a stated mission to protect the free expression of all faiths. The firm has extensive experience in matters regarding religious freedom.

The State Supreme Court last month ruled against the county in a case entitled, “Freedom From Religion Foundation v. Morris County Board of Chosen Freeholders.’’  The ruling banned the county from continuing to allow the owners of religious institutions from applying for grants for historic renovations or restorations.

The county’s historic preservation trust fund program had allowed churches or religious institutions to seek grants for historic projects for buildings eligible for or listed on the State and/or National Registers of Historic Places, with specific historic criteria in place for all applicants.

The county’s preservation program was created for a secular purpose: to preserve historic landmarks.

The Board of Freeholders are retaining Beckett because the board believes the State Supreme Court made the wrong decision. It believes the historic churches in Morris County are critical to the county community, the county’s economy, and to the county’s history.

Since the case is in litigation, the Freeholder Board will not have further comment about the matter.

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