Court Rejects Use Of State Grants For Historic Church Preservation

Apr 19, 2018

First Presbyterian Church of Ewing (photo provided by Preservation NJ)

Historic preservation advocates say a decision by New Jersey's highest court will make it difficult for churches to get the money they need to renovate their architecturally-significant structures.

The state Supreme Court has ruled that the Religious Aid Clause of New Jersey's constitution prohibits using taxpayer funds to repair and restore churches.

Courtenay Mercer, the director of Preservation New Jersey, says churches often appear on the group's annual list of the 10 most endangered historical places in the state.

"This is going to increase that number probably over the years. We fear for the very many historic churches in New Jersey that are already of great need of rehabilitation and this is certainly another hurdle in their way."

Mercer says the dwindling number of parishioners means many churches don't have financial support for renovations and the court ruling means they’ll have to find other ways to raise money to rehabilitate their historic buildings.

“It might have to be private foundation funds, more aggressive funding raising within the community. Obviously this is a big hit to not be able to get state grants.”