CASEBernstein v. Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association

Client Story
Scott Hoffman

Scott Hoffman and his wife have had the privilege of watching God transform hundreds of lives through the ministry of the Ocean Grove campground. After the Civil War, a group of Methodists founded the campground on the shores of New Jersey as a place for the “perpetual worship of Jesus Christ.”                                                         


Although the campground’s wood pavilion located on the beach held weekly worship services, daily Bible studies, and regular Gospel concerts, the government determined that it isn’t a place of worship, but public property.

It started after New Jersey instituted civil unions for homosexual couples, when a lesbian couple requested to use the Ocean Grove pavilion for their civil union ceremony. Scott explained that the campground leadership followed the doctrines of
The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, and hosting the ceremony would violate their moral convictions of marriage as between one man and one woman.

Within days, the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights notified the campground that they would be investigated for sexual discrimination, and “prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”

Despite the law clearly stating that no minister or church would be forced to perform civil unions, the Division of Civil Rights determined that the campground was guilty of discrimination. They determined that the open air pavilion did not count as a church, but as a public place.

Alliance Defending Freedom helped Scott and the campground take the New Jersey Division for Civil Rights to court for violating their right to act according to their freedom of religion. Sadly, the judge ruled that they had no right to abide by their faith when determining how their buildings would be used.

Find out more about
freedom of speech and religion as it impacts the church.

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A New Jersey administrative law judge recommended Thursday that the state’s Division on Civil Rights find the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association in violation of a state nondiscrimination law. The judge concluded that the ministry violated the law when it declined to allow two women to hold a “civil union” ceremony at its beachside pavilion, one of the ministry’s privately owned places of worship.
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Court Title Date
Administrative Agency
Determination by NJ Division on Civil Rights Oct 23 2012
Administrative Agency
Initial decision Jan 12 2012
Administrative Agency
Respondent’s brief in support of motion for summary decision Jul 30 2010




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