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Decision is in the Hands of the Court – SJC to Decide if Public Funds Can Be Used to Renovate Historic Acton Churches

In a marathon session facing questioning from six justices, Nina Pickering-Cook presented oral argument before Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court on behalf of the Town of Acton to defend the town’s decision to grant $100,000 to reimburse the cost of restoring a historic church.  The decision to devote Community Preservation Act funds to the historic church restorations was overwhelmingly approved at Acton’s Town Meeting.  Yet, 13 residents have challenged the Town’s right to provide such funding, solely because historic buildings are owned by active religious congregations.

Massachusetts’ churches have used public CPA funds for restoration and rehabilitation before, including for stained-glass windows.  More than 300 projects involving religious institutions have already been funded through the preservation program. Opponents are challenging proposed grants by Acton to a church on the basis that they violate the Anti-Aid Amendment to the Massachusetts Constitution because the historic building is also a place of worship.

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