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Senator Bucco: Let churches apply for county grants to fix historic buildings

NEW JERSEY – Senator Anthony M. Bucco is calling on the New Jersey Legislature to consider his resolution that would allow public funds to be used for the historic preservation of churches or other places of worship.

“Some of the oldest churches in the nation are located right here in New Jersey, including some that were constructed years before our founding. These historic buildings offer a direct connection to our past, to a time when the mere existence of our country was not a sure thing,” said Bucco (R-25). “The fact that these institutions are not allowed to even apply for county grants is tragic and it undermines the value that these historic sites provide. My legislation would address this problem immediately by amending our State Constitution to allow public funds to be used for historic preservation of places of worship.”

Two historic churches, Mendham Methodist and Zion Lutheran, filed a lawsuit against Morris County claiming that houses of worship were unfairly barred from applying for grants from the county’s historic preservation fund to repair their buildings.

The federal lawsuit was filed on behalf of the two churches in Long Valley by the Religious Liberty Clinic at the law school at Pepperdine University.

Bucco’s resolution, SCR-83, proposes an amendment to the State Constitution that would allow public funds to be used for the historic preservation of churches, or other places of worship, as part of a historic preservation program.

“No one is saying that historic churches should be awarded county grants, but they should at least be able to apply for them,” Bucco said. “Equal treatment under the law is all they are asking for.”

Bucco’s legislation was originally introduced shortly after a 2018 New Jersey Supreme Court ruling in which the Court declared that taxpayer money could not be used for church repair projects that support religious activities—even if the repairs were for historic preservation purposes.

At the time, Morris County had—through its taxpayer-funded historic preservation trust fund—granted $4.6 million to a dozen churches that used the money to repair stained glass windows with religious imagery, slate roofs, and building towers.

SCR-83 was referred to the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee on February 28, 2022.

Jay Edwards

Born and raised in Northwest NJ, Jay has a degree in Communications and has had a life-long interest in local radio and various styles of music. Jay has held numerous jobs over the years such as stunt car driver, bartender, voice-over artist, traffic reporter (award winning), NY Yankee maintenance crewmember and peanut farm worker. His hobbies include mountain climbing, snowmobiling, cooking, performing stand-up comedy and he is an avid squirrel watcher. Jay has been a guest on America’s Morning Headquarters,program on The Weather Channel, and was interviewed by Sam Champion.

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