liberty under attack: Forcing Religious Groups to Host Same-Sex Marriage Ceremonies
Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association of the United Methodist Church is a
ministry organization that owns a facility known as the Boardwalk Pavilion in
Ocean Grove, New Jersey.
This building and others on the same site have hosted church and
worship services for over a century. The pavilion is currently used for
Sunday and weekday worship services, Bible programs, youth programs, and
However, in 2007, the New
Jersey Division on Civil Rights threatened
to prosecute the Camp Meeting Association for adhering to its deeply held
began an investigation because the Christian organization had refused to allow
a same-sex civil union ceremony at the pavilion.
The state based its investigation on the
complaint of the two women who sought the ceremony.
In January 2012, a New
Jersey administrative law judge recommended that the state’s Division on Civil
Rights find that the Camp Meeting Association violated a state
believes that it is merely exercising its constitutionally protected right to
use its property in accordance with its religious beliefs, without government
A similar situation arose
in Hawaii in 2010 when an individual
demanded to be able to hold a same-sex “marriage” ceremony in a Catholic chapel,
a consecrated religious sanctuary on the grounds of a diocesan retreat
After Church employees declined
this demand, the individual filed a civil rights complaint against the Catholic
Church in Hawaii.
The individual alleges
that he was discriminated against on the basis of his religion (because he is
not Catholic) and sexual orientation.
The Church has responded
that forcing the Church to allow same-sex marriages in its chapel would violate
the Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses of the First Amendment to the U.S.
Constitution, as well as the Hawaii Constitution.
The Church has argued that the government
does not have a right to force a church to allow use of its facilities by
individuals or groups who do not share the religious beliefs of the Church, or
who may be actively antagonistic to the teachings and beliefs of the Church.
Although supporters of laws
redefining marriage often claim that they contain ample religious freedom
protections, these examples from New Jersey and Hawaii show that the
possibility of forcing a church to violate its deeply held religious beliefs is
Such a possibility would run
afoul of the religious freedom protections in the U.S. Constitution, as well as
federal and state statutes.
Is our most
cherished freedom truly under threat? Among many
current challenges, forcing religious groups or churches to host same-sex
“marriage” or civil union ceremonies denies these institutions the right to
exercise freely and fully their religious beliefs. The state should not be able to dictate the
use of sacred spaces in ways that violate deeply held religious beliefs. Without religious liberty properly
understood, all Americans suffer.