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NY Post
New York Post
2 Sep 2023


NextImg:NJ battles Christian group blocking Jersey Shore beach on Sundays

Sunday is not fun day at this Jersey Shore beach.

New Jersey officials are in a stand-off with a local religious group that controls the resort town of Ocean Grove, which says thou shalt not go to the beach before noon on the Lord’s day.

Government officials say that is clear violation of the separation of church and state, and sent a warning to the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association, a Methodist group that operates the beach just south of Asbury Park, earlier this month:

“The purpose of this warning is to advise you of the . . . potential violation and to provide you with an opportunity to voluntarily take corrective actions,” said the letter from Robert H. Clark of the state Bureau of Coastal and Land Use Compliance and Enforcement.

The Christian Methodist group has an unusual agreement with the Monmouth County township that allows it to restrict beach access on Sunday mornings during the summer.

New Jersey state officials say a religious group is violating the law by banning beach goers before noon on Sundays during the summer.
Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto/Shutterstock

Houses in Ocean Grove, NJ
The Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association in New Jersey’s Neptune Township, blocks beach access on Sunday mornings in the summer.
Universal Images Group via Getty Images

But the state Department of Environmental Protection says the chains and padlocks barring beach-goers on Sunday mornings violate the public-access rules in the Coastal Area Facilities Review Act, according to NJ.com.

The association’s president, Michael Badger, argued that closure “enhances religious and secular quality of life experiences in Ocean Grove,” the outlet reported.

The community group Neptune United has been protesting the closures since Memorial Day, according to reports. Founder Shane Martins said beach goers bypass the restrictions and are confronted by defenders of the Sunday policy. Police reportedly refrain from removing both the barriers and the bypassers.

People on the beach in New Jersey.
People sunbathe on the beach as thousands enjoy a summer day on New Jersey’s shorelines, including in Asbury Park and Ocean Grove.
ZUMAPRESS.com
Crowds on the beach in New Jersey.
Beach goers flock to the seaside towns of Bradley Beach, Ocean Grove and Asbury Park in New Jersey.
Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto/Shutterstock

The camp meeting association has been the center of controversy in the past, the New Jersey Patch reported.

Earlier this year, criticism came after the group rebuilt a cross-shaped pier near the waterfront.

In 2007, it refused to give a lesbian couple a permit to get married on the boardwalk. They sued the group and won.

Ocean Grove, a small town of about 3,000 residents, is known by some as “God’s Square Mile.”