After being trounced in a legal battle over funding of churches by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Morris County, N.J., is behaving like a petulant child, says FFRF.
The New Jersey Supreme Court unanimously agreed last April that Morris County violated the New Jersey Constitution by granting millions of tax dollars to repair houses of worship. The U.S. Supreme Court just last month unanimously agreed not to hear the county’s appeal of the case. The state supreme court agreed with FFRF that the grants violate Article I, Paragraph 3 of the New Jersey Constitution, guaranteeing that no person shall be "obliged to pay tithes, taxes, or other rates for building or repairing any church or churches, place or places of worship. . .”
Morris County lost soundly — and is now throwing an absurd fit. On Friday, Morris County filed an ill-advised lawsuit against FFRF and its plaintiff, David Steketee. In a suit filed before the U.S. District Court of New Jersey, the county is now asking to enjoin FFRF and Steketee from seeking the approximately $750,000 in legal fees that it owes them. Most outrageously, the county is requesting the court to enable a resumption of grants to active churches — the very funding program courts found to be unconstitutional in ruling on FFRF’s lawsuit.
“This legal challenge is bizarre,” says Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president. “We litigated this case fairly in court — and the county lost. The lawsuit demonstrates religious privilege run amok.”
Ironically, the county is throwing away even more taxpayer money on this frivolous response. FFRF says it will certainly fight what it calls a “harebrained Hail Mary.”
“Twice the county has tried to take this issue to federal court, and twice it has been rebuffed,” says FFRF Co-President Dan Barker, referring to the county’s early attempt to remove the case to federal court and to the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the case.
FFRF will be pursuing its options to ensure that the attorneys who so wantonly waste a federal court’s time on this meritless and poorly conceived “prayer” of a case are taken to task.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a state/church watchdog comprised of mostly nonreligious 31,000 members nationwide, including 600-plus in New Jersey.
Read the full legal background of FFRF’s legal case here.