Methodists group, two
couples to mediate
over civil-union site
By BILL BOWMAN, from
thnt.com Online, July 17, 2007
OCEAN GROVE, NJ — The Camp
Meeting Association has agreed to mediation with two same-sex couples claiming
discrimination over the association's refusal to allow them to use the boardwalk
pavilion for a civil-union ceremony.
At the same time, the association has been hit with a second complaint, filed
through the state Division on Civil Rights, by a same-sex couple also claiming
"public-accommodation discrimination." The division declined to comment
Association chief administrative officer the Rev. Scott M. Hoffman said in an
e-mailed statement Monday that the association remains "very optimistic and
look(s) forward to resolving this issue through the mediation process."
Hoffman could not be reached for further comment. The Camp Meeting
Association is a Methodist ministry that owns all the land and boardwalk in the
oceanfront enclave that is now part of Neptune.
Harriet Bernstein, 65, and Luisa Paster, 59, of Broadway filed a complaint in
June alleging public-accommodation discrimination over the association's refusal
to allow them to use the pavilion for their same-sex civil-union ceremony.
The association contends the pavilion is a religious structure, and the
Methodist Church's Book of Discipline prohibits any same-sex ceremonies from
being conducted in church structures.
The second complaint was filed earlier this month by Mount Hermon Way residents
Janice Moore, 70, and Emily Sonnessa, 77. The two charge that they were
unlawfully denied permission to use the pavilion for their civil-union ceremony,
set for September.
Moore said that like Bernstein and Paster, she and Sonnessa will go to
neighboring Bradley Beach for their civil-union ceremony.