NJ church group sues over investigation into civil union discrimination
The Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association, which owns a beachfront pavilion in New Jersey, recently refused the application of a lesbian couple to hold their civil union ceremony on its property, stating it doesn’t recognize same-sex union.
As a result, Luisa Paster and Harriet Bernstein, of Ocean Grove, filed a complaint with the Garden State’s Division on Civil Rights, which launched an investigation into the matter. The Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association cried foul and sued the state. (365gay.com):
The organization said if the group were to allow civil union ceremonies for same-sex couples to take place, it would constitute approval of such unions. The lawsuit also says the state’s investigation has forced the association to limit use of the pavilion for weddings out of fear of prosecution.
“The government can’t force a private Christian organization to use its property in a way that would violate its own religious beliefs,” said Brian Raum, a lawyer for the Alliance Defense Fund, which is representing the association.
In a statement, Lee Moore, a spokesman for the state’s attorney general, described the lawsuit as “premature,” saying the division hasn’t come to any conclusion about the case.
I have to say that I side with the church group on this one — if it’s private property, then yes, they can choose who to rent the pavilion to. Rather than treading on its right to discriminate based on religion, the couple would have been better off waging a campaign to drive business away from the pavilion because of its religion-based bigotry. The church group, however, better be sure that it doesn’t receive any public funds from the state.