Focus on the Family and Alliance Defense Fund inaccurately reported today:
The New Jersey Civil Rights Division has ruled that a church group broke the law by refusing to rent out its beachfront property to a same-sex couple for a civil-union ceremony.
“Our position remains the same,” said Brian Raum, senior legal counsel for ADF. “Religious organizations have a right to use their property in a way that’ consistent with their religious beliefs.
“It’ clear, based on Supreme Court decisions, that religious organizations have a First Amendment right to associate with messages that they agree with.”
According to the Newark Star-Ledger, the civil rights division ruled that a lawsuit may proceed, not that any law had been broken.
The Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association violated the terms of a special tax exemption which it received in exchange for granting public access to public boardwalk pavilion.
In short, the association sought, accepted for years, and ultimately misused public tax benefits to discriminate against members of the general public.
At no time was the association required to use its private property in a manner inconsistent with its beliefs.
The Star-Ledger elaborates:
Lawrence Lustberg, cooperating attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, called the decision “a spectacular victory.”
“The primary message of the decision is once you open your facility to the general public, then it’s got to remain open on a non-discriminatory basis,” Lustberg said.
The New York Blade adds:
In a second ruling Monday, the Civil Rights Division said that the Camp Meeting Association did not discriminate against another lesbian couple that applied to use the pavilion for their civil union ceremony in April 2007. That’s because by then, the group had stopped renting out the pavilion entirely.
The association and its religious-right allies — preoccupied with financial gain at taxpayer expense — continue to distract public attention from a very simple choice that they face:
Either treat all taxpayers equally, or refuse taxpayer subsidies.