The Latest: Court eyes Massachusetts church-state dispute

The Latest on a Massachusetts case challenging the use of public funds to restore a historic church (all times local):

11:30 a.m.

An attorney says a Massachusetts town should not be barred from giving public funds to support the restoration of a historic building just because it happens to be a church.

Nina Pickering-Cook told Massachusetts' highest court on Thursday that communities' ability to protect their historic resources shouldn't change because the structures are owned by a religious entity.

At issue is whether the town of Acton violated Massachusetts' constitution when it approved more than $100,000 in community preservation grants to restore stained-glass windows and identify other needs at a church.

Douglas Mishkin is an attorney for the taxpayers who brought the lawsuit. Mishkin told the court that active houses of worship are clearly prohibited from getting taxpayer dollars.

The Supreme Judicial Court is expected to rule in the coming months.

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12:20 a.m.

Massachusetts' highest court is stepping into a dispute over whether public funds can be used to restore a historic church.

The Supreme Judicial Court will hear arguments Thursday in a closely watched case that could have a big impact on historic preservation in Massachusetts.

A group of Acton residents say the state's constitution bars the town from giving more than $100,000 in taxpayer-funded grants to the Acton Congregational Church to refurbish stained glass windows and identify other needs.

The town says the funding is appropriate because it's supporting the preservation of a historic structure, not furthering a religious purpose. A lower court sided with the town last year.

The American Civil Liberties Union is supporting the residents, who say they should not be forced to support a religious institution with their tax dollars.