AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION OF NEW JERSEY, ET AL V. ROCHELLE HENDRICKS ET AL.
Appellants challenge the Department of Higher Education's awards of capital improvement grants to two sectarian institutions of higher education, consisting of over $10 million to Beth Medrash Govoha, and $645,323 to Princeton Theological Seminary. Appellants contend these grants violate Article I, Paragraph 3 of the New Jersey Constitution because the recipients will use the funds substantially to support religious instruction and the preparation of future candidates for ministry in the Jewish and Christian faiths.
In Resnick v. East Brunswick Township Board of Education, 77 N.J. 88 (1978), the Supreme Court construed Article I, Paragraph 3 to bar public schools from allowing religious organizations to use school facilities in the evenings and on weekends for religious instruction unless the users fully reimbursed the public for the costs of providing that access. Applying that binding precedent disallowing such a taxpayer-funded subsidy, we conclude that Resnick compels the invalidation of the Department's grants to these two sectarian institutions.
We acknowledge that the legislative history reflects that the intended meaning of Article I, Paragraph 3 – a provision included in our State's first Constitution in 1776 and readopted in the 1844 and 1947 Constitutions – is not entirely clear. As an intermediate appellate court, however, we defer to the Supreme Court to assess if it so chooses whether the reasonably debatable lineage of the constitutional provision warrants any reexamination or modification of Resnick.