Should a Christian church be allowed to practice its faith in all of its activities?
Not according to a New Jersey judge.
In 2007, a lesbian couple, Harriet Bernstein and Luisa Paster asked Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association for permission to hold their civil union at the picturesque seaside facility. Ocean Grove, who is associated with the United Methodist Church, declined the request because of their belief in what the Bible says against homosexuality.
Their facility is located on the Atlantic coast and has an open air pavilion where they held various functions and activities, many of which are done as a religious outreach.
The couple filed a discrimination complaint against Ocean Grove. The New Jersey Division of Civil Rights joined in on the complaint filed by the lesbian couple.
Jim Campbell, a litigation staff counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, argued on behalf of Ocean Grove,
“The government should not be able to force a private Christian organization to use its property in a way that would violate its own religious beliefs. Religious groups have the right to use their private property in a way that is consistent with their beliefs. That right, protected by both the New Jersey and U.S. constitutions, obviously trumps any law enacted by the state’s legislature.
“Through these events, the association connects with people who might not attend its worship services and encourages them to attend those services in the future. For example, the association begins its Saturday-night family entertainment events with a brief prayer and typically a quick promotion of its upcoming religious services and events. These are just some of the diverse ways that the association strives, in all its programs, to reach the entire community with the love and Gospel message of Jesus Christ.”
Administrative law judge Solomon Metzger disagreed with Alliance Defense Fund and ruled that Ocean Grove in fact had violated the civil rights of the lesbian couple. In his decision, he wrote,
“The respondent violated the [Law Against Discrimination] when it refused to conduct a civil-union ceremony for Ms. Bernstein and Ms. Paster. Respondent opposes same-sex unions as a matter of religious belief, and in 2007 found itself on the wrong side of recent changes in the law…
“As a religious organization that deems same-gender unions sinful, respondent is loath to be associated with such ceremonies and maintains that compelling this through the LAD violates its right of expressive association, free speech and free exercise of religion.
“That it had never before declined a wedding, other than for scheduling conflicts, only means that it had never before been asked to permit a same-gender service.”
Not only did Metzger rule against Ocean Grove, but the association also lost part of the tax exempt status for that part of the property where the open air pavilion is located. Fortunately, they were able to re-file for tax exempt status for the section of land under a different application and it was granted.
Time and again we are seeing how the judicial system is denying the constitutional rights of Christians and giving favored rights to minority groups like homosexuals and Muslims as in the case of the Oklahoma state constitutional amendment being blocked because of one Muslim leader.
Unless we get real Christians in positions of leadership in our nation and they appoint judges who will rule on the constitution and not their own personal agendas, it won’t be long before Christians have no rights and we’ll be the outlawed religion here in what once was a Christian nation.