TRENTON, N.J. (RNS) The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey and Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed a lawsuit Monday (June 24) to stop the state from giving more than $11 million in construction funds to a Christian seminary and a Jewish yeshiva.

The money is slated to go to Beth Medrash Govoha, a Lakewood school that trains Orthodox Jewish rabbis, and Princeton Theological Seminary, which trains Christian ministers. The private schools are among 46 New Jersey colleges and universities due to split $1.3 billion in taxpayer funds for campus construction and renovation projects.

Udi Ofer, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey. Photo by Amanda Brown/courtesy ACLU

Udi Ofer, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey. Photo by Amanda Brown/courtesy ACLU


This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

The ACLU lawsuit petitions the court to block the state from awarding the grants to the two religious schools.

“We support freedom of religion; however the government has no business funding religious ministries,” said Ed Barocas, legal director of the ACLU of New Jersey. “Taxpayers should not foot the bill to train clergy or provide religious instruction, but the state is attempting to do exactly that.”

Princeton Theological Seminary declined to comment. Beth Medrash Govoha officials released a statement stating they were aware of the ACLU lawsuit. The statement also listed the ways the rabbinical school contributes to the state’s economy.

The state grant will be used to help expand the school, the statement said.

“BMG will use funding solely to expand library facilities and academic capacity,” said Moshe Gleiberman, vice president for administration at Beth Medrash Govoha.

The all-male yeshiva is scheduled to receive $10.6 million from the state; Princeton Theological Seminary (which is not linked with Princeton University) is scheduled to receive $645,323 from the state for technology upgrades.

“The state of New Jersey has an important role to play in providing financial support for institutions of higher learning in our state, but public money should not be used to fund schools that are not open and welcoming to all students in New Jersey,” said Udi Ofer, executive director of the ACLU of New Jersey.

The state Legislature is considering the list of 176 projects approved by Gov. Chris Christie’s administration to receive the higher education bond money. Several lawmakers have expressed concern about the grants to the yeshiva and the seminary.

State officials have declined to release the applications the two religious schools filed for the bond money because the award process is not complete.

 

3 Comments

  1. David Thompson

    Are we heading towards a theocracy? There seems to be no end to the church and state violations. Then there’s the erroneous claim this is a Christian nation, which we made perfectly clear in 1797 that we are not.

    Treaty of Tripoli
    As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen [Muslims],—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan [Mohammedan] nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comments with many links may be automatically held for moderation.