Thursday, September 07, 2023

The State Goes After the Church--What Happened to "Separation?"

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Secular "progressives" are always harping about Thomas Jefferson's explanation of the "separation of church and state."

They say it's in the Constitution, but it isn't.

They believe in absolute separation---except when they don't. 

Ocean Grove, a New Jersey community in Neptune Township founded by Methodist ministers in 1869 as a “Christian seaside resort,” has been warned by state officials that their longstanding tradition of limiting access to their privately owned beach before noon on Sundays during the summer months to accommodate church services and maintain the character of their community is a violation of state law.

This is the same Methodist organization that was sued over the shape of the $2 million pier they replaced after Hurricane Sandy wiped out most of the coastal communities in 2012. 

The problem with the pier? It looked like a cross. The Methodists won the court case. 

It's now in place and it does look like a cross, but that wasn't even the primary intent. They wanted their constituents and the public to have the most beautiful views of the beach, the ocean, and the surrounding area. The current design gave them that.

Be informed, not misled.

First, it was the pier.

In 2012, Superstorm Sandy — one of the most destructive hurricanes in U.S. history — destroyed 346,000 homes, took 38 lives, and caused $30 billion in damages, all in the state of New Jersey alone.

The newly built cross-shaped pier, which cost $2 million, was consecrated to God on April 15, 2023, the day it opened to the public. 

“In 2012, we started working and thinking about what’s the best pier we could do. We wanted to do the best for the Lord. We also wanted to make the best offerings possible for people to come and be at this family-friendly, Christian seaside resort,” Methodist leadership said at the time.  

The public was prevented from accessing the end of the previous pier because it was owned by a private fishing club. 

“It’s about the only publicly accessible pier in New Jersey where you can walk all the way to the end, where there’s no fence, there’s no private club or banquet hall on the end of it. Anybody, regardless of their faith, regardless of where they’re from, they can walk all the way out to the full extent and not be excluded,” he said. 

However, they were forced to be dragged through a costly lawsuit before they could build it. Some people were offended by the sight of a pier that reminded them of a cross---"Separation of church and state," they shouted.

In 2018 their tax-deductible status was challenged by leftists in government.

Now it's the beach.

The town of Ocean Grove, New Jersey, is under fire again, this time facing pressures to open its beach on Sunday mornings, a time when it's historically been closed.

For generations, the privately owned seaside town known as "God's Square Mile" has closed its beach on Sunday mornings until 12 noon so its residents can attend church and engage in religious worship. The area of Ocean Grove was founded on Christian values.

Now, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) has put Ocean Grove in the hot seat by issuing a warning letter stating the town disobeyed the law by cutting off access to the ocean and wet sand — public property.

The same activist group behind previous attacks on the church is behind this one. 

Local news says, "Jersey Shore Town, State At Odds Over Sunday Beach Restrictions.

State officials say the long-held rule prohibiting beach access on Sunday mornings is not compliant with NJ law.

The policy to close Ocean Grove beach access has been in place for 154 years, and 2023 marked the first year the association was met with complaints.

Shane Martins, an attorney who lives in Ocean Grove and sits on the Neptune Zoning Board that is driving the state to take action against the Christians, said last summer he was going to ask the ACLU to look into the legality of a cross-shaped pier.

"This is Christian nationalism," Martins said at the time. "We are not a Christian nation; we are a nation that has many Christians in it.”

One Ocean Grove resident, Douglas Grote, told Patch last year he donated $50 to a fundraising campaign to help build the new pier but added he never would have donated had he first seen a rendering that the pier would be in the shape of a cross.

"It's sectarian," Grote said. "And I'm a Presbyterian. Just this past weekend, I saw brown and black people on the beach in Ocean Grove; I saw people with Muslim scarves, someone in a Jewish scarf, and a transgender person in a halter top and bikini bottoms. If they are out here on the beach and there's a cross right in the middle of their views, I would say that's offensive as all get out. Wouldn't you?"

Maybe that's the real question. "There's a cross right in the middle of their views. I would say that's offensive. Would you?"

What is the rightful place of the biblical Christian Church in our culture?

When Thomas Jefferson reassured the Danbury Baptists that he and the other Founding Fathers had created a "wall" to protect the church from the government meddling in the affairs of the church, he meant just that.

At the time he wrote to the Baptists, he and the other Founders were approving of several different church services being held in the Capitol Building because it "wasn't being used on Sundays." And, our newly formed Congress was approving paying for the printing of Bibles to be distributed to the natives on this continent so we could share the Gospel with them.

When our Founding Fathers came to an impasse in drafting our Constitution, Ben Franklin called his colleagues to prayer. After prayer to the God of the Bible,  they delivered the greatest man-created document in the history of the world.

These "original intent" actions were not unusual until much later in our history.

The understanding of our Founders was indeed that the state and the church should be separate. In England, the church had "married " the state and as the state failed, the church failed. This is why Jefferson and his colleagues were so intent on keeping the government out of the business of the church.

In fact, when the French historian Alexis de Tocqueville visited America in the 1800s he noted, "I questioned the faithful of all communions; I particularly sought the society of clergymen, who are the depositories of the various creeds and have a personal interest in their survival ... all thought the main reason for the quiet sway of religion over their country was the complete separation of church and state. I have no hesitation in stating that throughout my stay in America, I met nobody, lay or cleric, who did not agree about that."

That principle of separation has now been inverted to be a tool of attack in the hands of those who disagree with---or simply hate the biblical Church.

"Separation" doesn't mean the secularists have a right to silence and choke the Church---using state authorities as needed.

Now the state is trying to crush the Christian Church and its adherents on every issue with which government leaders and the secular Left do not agree. This is what Jefferson was referring to. Whether it is LGBTQIA+ issues, abortion, property rights, freedom of speech, or the right to assemble, under the current leadership, the state has the upper hand in trying to crush the biblical Christian Church---her voice and her influence. 

Too many churches and pastors are bowing in compliance. The Methodists on the Jersey Shore are not bowing.

God bless them.

Be Informed. Be Discerning. Be Vigilant. Be Engaged. Be Bold. Be Prayerful.