I was excited to be relaxing last week in Ocean City, N.J., my hometown.
In a groundbreaking victory against government sponsorship of religion, a New Jersey appellate court ruled that the administration of Gov. Chris Christie violated the New Jersey Constitution when it awarded more than $11 million to two religious institutions of higher learning. This decision by the Appellate Division represents the first major state court precedent in almost 40 years concerning New Jersey’s prohibition on using taxpayer funding to support a religious ministry.
You could say the Religious Right has hit a bit of a rough patch lately.
Last year, President Barack Obama was easily reelected. About seven months later, the U.S. Supreme Court issued two rulings favorable to same-sex marriage. Then this week the Religious Right was force-fed another bitter pill by voters as fundamentalist candidates for public offices suffered defeats in both Virginia and Ohio.
Government grants to religious schools are unconstitutional, force taxpayers to subsidize discrimination and undermine the independence and integrity of religious institutions.
That’s the message Americans United is sending to the New Jersey legislature.
In a letter yesterday to State Senate President Stephen Sweeney and General Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, AU’s Delaware Valley Chapter urged lawmakers to reject proposed grants to two religious schools in the state.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and some of his political allies are attempting to funnel millions in taxpayer dollars to two sectarian institutions that train members of the clergy – and they’d prefer to keep citizens in the dark about the details.
With all of the hubbub over today’s ruling on health care at the Supreme Court, it’s easy for other stories to get overlooked. Here’s one from New Jersey that’s shouldn’t: Gov. Chris Christie has conceded that his school voucher plan is dead for this year.
Christie was asked about the matter during a recent town hall meeting in Mahwah. He said the bill was dead and blamed its derailment on Sheila Oliver, the state Assembly speaker, who Christie said refuses to move the bill.