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Current Events & Hot Topics Current Events & Hot Topics

Will Churches Be Sued Over Gay Marriage?

Posted by on Jun. 29, 2013 at 12:56 PM
  • 138 Replies

Flashback: 

A church group that owns beachfront property discriminated against a lesbian couple by not allowing them to rent the locale for their civil union ceremony, a New Jersey department ruled Monday in a case that has become a flash point in the nation’s gay rights battle.

The New Jersey Division on Civil Rights said its investigation found that the refusal of the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association to rent the oceanfront spot to the couple for their same-sex union in March 2007 violated the public accommodation provisions of the state’s Law Against Discrimination.

While the ruling is decisively in favor of the couple, Harriet Bernstein and Luisa Paster, it does not end the case. An administrative law judge still must decide on a remedy for the parties.

“What this case has always been about from my clients’ perspective has been equality,” said Larry Lustberg, the lawyer for the couple. He said they will seek an order that requires the pavilion to be “open to all on an equal basis.”

Brian Raum, a lawyer for the Alliance Defense Fund, a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based group that represents the Methodist organization, Camp Meeting Association, said his clients would keep pushing back against being forced to allow civil unions on the property.

“Our position is the same,” he said. “A Christian organization has a constitutional right to use their facilities in a way that is consistent with their beliefs.”

Meanwhile, the parties in the dispute are awaiting a ruling from the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on whether the issue should be decided in the division on civil rights or in federal courts. A lower federal court has ruled that the state could consider the case.

More recently: 

A New Jersey judge ruled against a Christian retreat house that refused to allow a same-sex civil union ceremony to be conducted on its premises, ruling the Constitution allows “some intrusion into religious freedom to balance other important societal goals.”

On Thursday, administrative judge Solomon A. Metzger ruled that religious liberty did not exempt the seaside retreat, which is associated with the United Methodist Church, from renting its facilities out for purposes that violate its moral beliefs.

In March 2007, Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association declined Harriet Bernstein and Luisa Paster’s request to rent its Boardwalk Pavilion for the ceremony. The couple sued, claiming they had been discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation. In December 2008, the state Division on Civil Rights found the Christian campground had likely violated the state Law Against Discrimination (LAD) and joined the case.

The United Methodist Church teaches, “The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching,” and that “ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches.”

But Judge Metzger said church doctrine was irrelevant. “As to ‘free exercise’ [of religion], the LAD is a neutral law of general application designed to uncover and eradicate discrimination; it is not focused on or hostile to religion,” he wrote. The free exercise clause did not factor into his ruling, he stated, but “a much lower standard that tolerates some intrusion into religious freedom to balance other important societal goals.” He believed the “arm’s-length nature of the transactions” gave Ocean Grove “comfortable distance from notions incompatible with its own beliefs.”

“He said this isn’t a case of religious liberty, which is simply not true,” Jim Campbell, who represented the resort and serves as litigation staff counsel with the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), told LifeSiteNews.com. “What this case involves at its core is the rights of a religious group to use its property in a way that is consistent with its religious beliefs.”

Campbell said most people will find Metzger’s belief that the state can force a religious facility to violate its conscience “a very scary concept. If that is a principle of the law, then essentially the government can cast aside religion if it deems something more important.” Campbell called Metzger’s ruling “an error of Constitutional law.”

UPDATE: A reader notes a distinction that he feels should be made:

The Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association is not a church.  Granted, they have some affiliation with the United Methodist Church, however the controversy was the result of the non-church status of the OGCMA.  That organization, because it is not a church, applied for a “Green Acres” tax exemption via the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. The tax exemption required that the OCGMA allow use of its facilities to the public “on an equal basis.”

http://www.nj.gov/oag/newsreleases08/pr20081229a.html

Because the OGCMA allowed the public to use the pavilion for weddings, and because the  OGCMA voluntarily agreed to make its facilities open to the public “on an equal basis” in exchange for a tax break,  the court ruled that the OCGMA could not exclude same-sex weddings from its pavilion.

Nonetheless: to my way of thinking, the central conflict here between a church’s values and a court’s ruling that those values are irrelevant seems one worth noting, along with the judge’s comments that “some intrusion into religious freedom [may be needed] to balance other important societal goals.”



It's not just about two adults in love, wake up and smell the truth! This is a religious freedom issue!

I'm a Roman Catholic Christian, volunteer for League of Animal Protectors, cross-stitching, Certified Dog Trainer, green living, book reading, frugal, young wife, college student and mom to Evalynn 8yr, Ashley 7yr, Trey 2yr, and Hailey 1 year, and "mom" to 2 indoor only cats & 1 toy poodle and Pekingese!

by on Jun. 29, 2013 at 12:56 PM
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Replies (1-10):
JanetMonroe1991
by Bronze Member on Jun. 29, 2013 at 12:59 PM
6 moms liked this

As long as the Churchs don't rent what they own to anyone in the public to collect tax breaks then no they shouldn't be sued. If they want to keep things within the chruch that is one thing, but if they start taking public money for tax breaks then they need to provide public services. 

Sekirei
by Nari Trickster on Jun. 29, 2013 at 1:00 PM
3 moms liked this

You are damn funny.. and a little scary.

YOU ARE NOT GOING TO BE FORCED TO MARRY A WOMAN.. THE CHURCH IS NOT GOING TO BE FORCED TO PERFORM MARRIAGES FOR ANYONE THEY DO NOT WANT TO DO. 

..... also, if this is a religious freedom issue, you attempting to block gay marriage is affecting my religious freedom... :3

 ~~~~      ~~~~         ~~~~        ~~~~~~          ~~~~~~

"Can you hear them? All these people who lived in terror of you and your judgement. All these people who's ancestors devoted themselves, sacrificed themselves to you. Can you hear them singing? Oh, you like to think you're a god. You're not a god, you're just a parasite, eaten out with jealousy and envy and longing for the lives of other." ~ The Doctor

bearsbabies
by Member on Jun. 29, 2013 at 1:00 PM
You can not force a church to marry gay people. You are taking away their rights to practice their religion. What is this country coming to!!!!!!!
jaxTheMomm
by Platinum Member on Jun. 29, 2013 at 1:01 PM
1 mom liked this

Your question is vague, given the story  - "Will churches be sued over gay marriage?"

In what way?  For refusing to allow a couple to have a wedding in their church?  That's not what this case was about.

Or for not being a church, and refusing to lease their facility for a wedding because they don't approve of the sexuality of a couple.

What, specifically, are you asking?

IhartU
by Gold Member on Jun. 29, 2013 at 1:02 PM
4 moms liked this

As long as they stay out of politics and keep their tax free status, they should not be forced to marry gays.

TruthSeeker.
by Milami on Jun. 29, 2013 at 1:03 PM
4 moms liked this

 If a church wants to rent their property out to the public they must abide by the laws of that state and not discriminate. They are free to NOT rent out their buildings and have to make the decision about "who" to allow to use their building.

LavenderMom23
by Bronze Member on Jun. 29, 2013 at 1:03 PM
1 mom liked this

Do private property owners not deserve religious freedom too? Do individuals not also have religious freedom?

Quoting jaxTheMomm:

Your question is vague, given the story  - "Will churches be sued over gay marriage?"

In what way?  For refusing to allow a couple to have a wedding in their church?  That's not what this case was about.

Or for not being a church, and refusing to lease their facility for a wedding because they don't approve of the sexuality of a couple.

What, specifically, are you asking?


Donna6503
by Platinum Member on Jun. 29, 2013 at 1:04 PM
Bump
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StarburstKisses
by Bronze Member on Jun. 29, 2013 at 1:06 PM

I'm on the fence with gay marriages, I lean more towards the side of letting them have it.

However, making a church - any church - marry them imo is wrong. Many churches do not condone same sex relations let alone marriages. If they want to get married and they want a churchy one, they will have to find one who is willing to do it on their own. Not force them to do so. If they're that desperate to get married they should go to the court house.

LavenderMom23
by Bronze Member on Jun. 29, 2013 at 1:07 PM
Our very public constitution says freedom of religion, our money says in God we Trust....it shouldn't matter if it's a public building PAID by a church or christian individual. People shouldn't have to violate their religious beliefs for another.
Quoting TruthSeeker.:

 If a church wants to rent their property out to the public they must abide by the laws of that state and not discriminate. They are free to NOT rent out their buildings and have to make the decision about "who" to allow to use their building.

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