By Adam Liptak
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court announced Monday that it would not hear a case about whether a New Jersey county could allow churches to participate in grant programs for historic preservation even though the State Constitution forbids using tax money “for building or repairing any church.”
From 2012 to 2015, Morris County, N.J., gave more than $4.6 million to 12 churches to fix facades, stained-glass windows and aging roofs under a historic preservation program limited to local government, charitable conservancies and religious institutions.
Last year, the New Jersey Supreme Court halted payments to the churches, saying the State Constitution specifically prohibits them. The court also ruled that the prohibition in the State Constitution did not run afoul of the federal Constitution’s guarantee of free exercise of religion.
As is the United States Supreme Court’s custom, its brief order gave no reasons for turning down appeals from a county board and a church. Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh filed an opinion agreeing with the court’s decision not to hear the case but noting his view that “the decision of the New Jersey Supreme Court is in serious tension with this court’s religious equality precedents.”
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