An email was sent to SCA about an issue in Ocean Grove, NJ. Below is the original email. I'm posting it here to get some feedback on the issue.
I live in Ocean Grove and always find it interesting that the articles written about the 92 storm, its aftermath, the issue with the gay marriage in the pavilion, and now the Sandy aftermath and FEMA fight, assumes the town is behind the Camp Meeting.
Many in the town are not Methodists (just check attendance records at St Paul’s Methodist Church, at the Great Auditorium, or the Pavilion service on the beach in Ocean rove and I believe you will see the decline), and decisions are being made here that are not those of the collective majority. I, like many others in Ocean Grove, pay an enormous amount in taxes (18+k in my case), and very few of us knew that the Camp Meeting (the religious governing body in OG) set the beach up as a non-profit in order to collect the revenue from the beach goers and not have to provide that to Neptune township, of which Ocean Grove is a part of. That would be fine if that money also was used to lower my taxes, but it is not. Neptune Township officials must love that they can still tax us at the rate they do, while not having to provide beach support and infrastructure as is done in other towns in NJ.
Also, we are not allowed to step on the beach before 12:30 on Sunday. This is from the Ocean Grove website: http://oceangrove.org/pages/faq
Q. Why is the beach closed on Sunday mornings?
A . Significant in Ocean Grove’s heritage was the observance of Sunday as a day of rest and worship in which all vehicular traffic was prohibited from its streets as was any active recreation, including bathing. Late in the 20th century the traffic prohibitions were removed. About the same time the total closure of the beach on Sundays was limited to 12:30 PM at which time it opens for public bathing. The Sunday morning closure of the beach was retained in recognition of Ocean Grove’s heritage. It remains the only half mile along the Jersey shore where once a week one can enjoy an uninterrupted view of the ocean and beach from the boardwalk on a bright summer morning in their pristine condition. Ocean Grove is on the National Historic Registry
It adds further insult to injury to know that “God’s Square Mile” provides, to my understanding, over 50% of the entire tax base of Neptune, in a town that has approximately 50% full time residence (many on fixed incomes) and of that 50%, less than 5% send children to the Neptune school district. To be denied FEMA funding because of the religious infrastructure in light of the taxes we pay, justifies the need for change.
Many of us have supported, or should I say tolerated, the Camp Meeting in order to live near the ocean but now, after the one time we might see a return on the taxes we pay in the form of FEMA money, I believe that support is waning. We are stuck in the middle of the conflict between religion and state.
It was a little unclear to me what stance we should take on this issue. Should we support FEMA's decision since Ocean Grove is basically "governed" by a religious organization, or should we oppose the decision in support of the townspeople who are not part of the religious community? Ideally, it would be best to take any of the governing power of the town away from the Camp Meeting, and move it to a secular government body (maybe Neptune township?), but this seems to be a very complex issue. One we should support though?