The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey has reportedly filed a lawsuit to block the state from giving more than $11 million in special higher education grant funds to two religious colleges. One of them is Lakewood Yeshiva, which was slated to get $10.6 million.
Beth Medrash Govoha
ACLU Files Suit To Stop New Jersey Grants To Haredi Yeshiva
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey has filed a lawsuit to block the state from giving more than $11 million in special higher education grant funds to two religious colleges, the Star-Ledger reported.
Most of that $11 million is slated to go to Beth Medrash Govoha (BMG), the largest yeshiva in America. A much smaller amount was awarded to Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS), a school that trains Christian ministers.
The religious schools are two of the 46 New Jersey colleges and universities – all secular except for BMG and PTS – awarded $1.3 billion in taxpayer funds earmarked for construction and renovation.
“We support freedom of religion; however the government has no business funding religious ministries. Taxpayers should not foot the bill to train clergy or provide religious instruction, but the state is attempting to do exactly that,” Ed Barocas, the ACLU of New Jersey’s legal advisor said.
Beth Medrash Govoha’s student body is almost all haredi. (A small smattering of its students are modern Orthodox.) It is also entirely male. Even so, the state granted BMG $10.6 million from the state to pay for a new library and academic center.
PTS (which is not part of or linked to Princeton University) has a student body that is entirely Christian, but both males and females are enrolled. It was granted $645,323 for IT 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. State funding of higher education should not be done at the expense of the separation of church and state,” Udi Ofer, the executive director of the ACLU of New Jersey, said.
The Star-Ledger reports that in addition to the ACLU, the other plaintiffs in the case are the Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of New Jersey and Gloria Schor Andersen, speaker-at-large for the Delaware Valley Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
The New Jersey State Legislature is in the process of evaluating 176 projects approved by Governor Chris Christie to receive the higher education bond money.
The Christie Administration’s process for selecting these schools – especially the selection of BMG and PTS – have both been criticized by some lawmakers. Sharp criticism has been leveled on both on issues of separation of church and state and on BMG’s gender segregation.
[Hat Tip: Bnei Levi.]