Methodist Community In Religious Freedom Fight Against NJ Regarding Sunday Beach Access


Sunday services are held in two places during the summer. The “beach church” — as locals call it — takes place at the Boardwalk Pavilion. The other is held at the Great Auditorium. There are also Bible study groups. 

“It’s the best community,” Giammona said. “As a Christian, having all the religious aspects in one place is appealing. It has a lot of things for us to do.” 

In a Sept. 12 editorial published by The Newark Star-Ledger, the newspaper argued

“This shore town, with quirky origins as a Christian seaside resort, recently erupted into a raging debate again over the separation of church and state — and while some might view putting a cross on its beach badges or building a $2 million cross-shaped pier as overboard, a local Christian group that owns virtually all the land here may be right that they have the freedom to do that. We’ll leave this to the experts in constitutional law.

But what these folks don’t have is the freedom to break the law and keep people off the beaches. So the state was right to put the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association on notice with a letter warning that, tradition or not, closing the beach during the summer on Sunday mornings – to everyone, Christian or not – is almost surely illegal.”

This past January, Badger said, Neptune United was a supporter of implementing resident-only permit parking. The OGCMA opposed the move. Badger said Neptune Township agreed with the association’s position on the parking issue, leading Neptune United to target them on other matters, including a landmark building featuring a large cross to the group’s building of pier in the shape of a cross. 

OGCMA supporters have pointed out that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, for example, has been allowed to spend millions to purchase a public beach near his sprawling Hawaii estate — yet Ocean Grove can’t manage its own property as they see fit. 

Giammona said the people protesting access to the beach “are trying to fight for a right they think they’re owed.” 

Badger said the OGCMA will be fined if they don’t comply with the state’s demands in time for Memorial Day weekend, the start of the 2024 summer beach season. 

“These trespassers don’t even want us to have a cross on our beach,” he added. “This isn’t just an Ocean Grove issue, but an issue for everyone who wants to display religious symbols on private land.”

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