Christian Group Opens Beach to Public Amid Legal Battle with New Jersey

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Ocean Grove, New Jersey, a tranquil seaside community steeped in faith and tradition, has witnessed a dramatic shift of policy in recent days. A regional Christian group renowned for cordoning off its beaches on Sunday mornings to pay homage to God, has momentarily chosen the path of compromise. They have decided to permit beachgoers onto their sandy shores while they are embroiled in a court case with New Jersey over jurisdictional rules.

The group in question, known as the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association, is a Methodist organization that has provided a Christian haven on the iconic Jersey Shore since 1869. They’ve declared that they will permit access to the beach on Sunday mornings while their legal battle ensues.

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In an attempt to protect their rights, the association has made a plea for an immediate ruling to stall the actions of the Department of Environmental Protection. The Department has been pushing to enforce beach access laws, which they claim are being violated by Ocean Grove. Adding weight to this conflict, the agency dangles the ominous threat of daily fines amounting to $25,000.

The group expressed their stance firmly stating, “For 155 years, we have closed our beach on Sunday mornings to honor God — a core pillar of this community since the founding of the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association. We are challenging this order to preserve our property rights and religious freedom.”

The association’s sphere of ownership encompasses all the land within the community, including the beaches. This place calls itself “God’s Square Mile at the Jersey Shore”. Traditionally, it has kept the beaches closed until noon on Sundays for worship services.

Despite the association’s rules, previous year, some rule breakers decided to explore the beach on Sunday mornings. To counter this, association personnel alerted the local law enforcement authorities. However, on arrival, police chose not to intervene.

Through their court submissions, the association extended an invitation to “all members of the public 365 days a year”, asserting that anyone “regardless of race, creed, religion or orientation” is welcome onto the private property for 99.5% of the year. They went on to elaborate that public access is limited only for 45 hours out of the year, specifically between Memorial Day and Labor Day. This policy, in the group’s view, is “abundantly reasonable.”

As the wheels of justice continue to turn, there is no indication as to when the presiding administrative law judge might make his decision. Until that time, the state attorney general’s office and the DEP remain tight-lipped with no immediate response regarding the ongoing dispute.