Morris County Freeholder Hank Lyon’s proposed resolution to bar preservation money for any religious structure would jeopardize future generations from enjoying all types of historical structures instead of only non-religious buildings.
We can look at virtually any constitution (Federal or State) as well as any legislation and interpret it many ways. When interpreting these documents literally, or at the extreme edges, we run the risk of undermining their intent. I believe the officers of the Morris County Historic Trust Fund have been very responsible in striking the appropriate balance in awarding grants to religious institutions. The practice has been only to award grants for exterior preservation recognizing the historical significance. No monies are available to support the institutions’ “program”. There has not been an effort to undercut the legitimate separation of church and state by this program.
In addition, as the front page Daily Record story of Friday, Jan. 16 correctly points out, many of these institutions do not have the resources to address the costly maintenance issues of these 100+ year old structures. If they disappear over time, society as a whole loses a huge contribution to social services: soup kitchens, housing the homeless, allowing charities to function in their facility, etc. The unintended cost would be another burden placed on government to provide these services. As we are all aware, many of these government programs have sustained significant cuts placing greater burdens on the institutions that would be threatened by this legislation.
Bottom line- this proposal is shortsighted, extreme, and harmful to Morris County citizens. I hope many concerned citizens will join me in attending Wednesday night’s (Jan. 28) Freeholder meeting and tell our representatives to vote this proposal down.
Mountain Lakes, NJ
Note from the Editor: Since this Letter to the Editor was published, it appears that Freeholder Lyon is withdrawing his proposal to elimate funding to churches for historic preservation projects. See the story here. However, it remains on the agenda for discussion at the Freeholders meeting on Jan. 28.
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