- Associated Press - Monday, January 16, 2017

SOMERVILLE, N.J. (AP) - A state judge has ruled that historic preservation grants awarded to churches by Morris County officials don’t violate constitutional protections.

The judge found the state wasn’t promoting religion by giving churches grants through the Historic Preservation Trust Fund. Religious groups make up about 32 percent of the organizations that benefit from the program.

The lawsuit filed in 2015 alleged that the grants violated the state constitution.

But Somerset County Superior Court Judge Margaret Goodzeit determined that the fund didn’t favor or endorse religious institutions. She wrote that excluding historical churches from getting grants available to all historical buildings would be tantamount to withholding general benefits to people on the basis of their religion.

The case was heard in Somerset County to avoid potential conflicts of interest.

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