Alex Blaze

Ocean Grove's Camp Meeting Association loses tax exemption

Filed By Alex Blaze | September 18, 2007 12:20 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Garden State Equality, Mexico, New Jersey, Ocean Grove, separation of church and state

The Camp Meeting Association, in Ocean Grove, New Jersey, will have to start paying quite a bit more in taxes. The group own the beach and the boardwalk in the town (a town with a strong gay and lesbian presence), and that group is a branch of the Methodist Church. A New Jersey lesbian couple wanted to have their New Jersey civil union there on the boardwalk, which was designated "public" by the association in order to get a tax break to the tune of $500,000 a year. The Methodist Church said no, cited Bible chapter and verse, and the lesbian couple sued. Since it's public, the land has to abide by the state's anti-discrimination law.

From a press release from Garden State Equality (sorry, their website doesn't have their press releases, and I can't find this anywhere else):

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection today denied the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association's request under the state's Green Acres program for continued tax breaks for the public boardwalk pavilion area on which the Association has banned gay civil unions.

Well, you can discriminate if you're a religious organization, I suppose, but just don't expect a ginormous tax break if you do it.

But we could always do like Mexico does and ban churches from owning land and speaking on public policy.

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It's a sure bet that the religious right will go into an apoplectic state as the usually do. Hoards of lions are headed east as we speak. (They are supposedly more fond of Methodists than some evangelicals are.)

This is a tax case and not necessarily a pure First Amendment case from what I understand, so there may be specific nuances of New Jersey tax exemption law coming into play here. So I think it may be too early to predict how the New Jersey Courts will ultimately rule.

Lion call you office please for duty in New Jersey. Dorothy and Toto can keep things in hand in Kansas or whatever light green state they're in.

Another tempest in a teapot.

No doubt Fox news will jump all over this as a case of religious oppression while omitting the key fact that the boardwalk has been designated a 'public place' by the Camp Meeting Assn itself in exchange for tax breaks and is therefore subject to state law, rather than the dogma of the faith. You can't have it both ways, folks.

I'm sure they will, Mike. But public property doesn't exclude the public. And my understanding was that this wasn't the Methodist Church, per se - just that particular church that owned the land. That church is part of the Confessing movement in the Methodists - something I have some knowledge of since Indiana State Senator Patricia Miller is the head of the movement (she's the same one that wanted to ban artificial insemination for lesbians in Indiana!) and my sister married a Confessing minister. Sadly, we haven't really spoken since she did. :(