Dr. Dale Whilden, President of the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Assoc, Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande, Sen Jennifer Beck, Gov Chris Christie, Congressman Chris Smith and Neptune Mayor Dr. Michael Brantley cut the ribbon of Ocean Grove’s rebuilt boardwalk
After being twice denied funding from FEMA before finally getting $2.4 million on their second appeal, the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association re-opened their boardwalk to the public today with a ceremonial ribbon cutting lead by Governor Chris Christie, Congressman Chris Smith, Senator Jennifer Beck, Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande, Neptune Township Mayor Dr. Michael Brantley and Dr. Dale C. Whilden, President of the OGCMA.
“Today is truly a great day for Ocean Grove, Neptune Township, Monmouth County, and the Jersey Shore, and a critical step forward in our recovery from Sandy,” said Smith.”This boardwalk is an integral part of Ocean Grove the neighboring Jersey Shore community, a fact we reinforced during our efforts to reverse FEMA’s original decision at the local level—and yet another at the regional level—to deny critical funding.”
Governor Christie on the Belmar boardwalk, August 2011
Governor Chris Christie will be making several appearances on the Jersey Shore tomorrow, Thusday, July 3.
At 11am Christie will join Congressman Chris Smith, State Senator Jennifer Beck, Neptune Mayor Dr. Michael Brantley and Dr. Dale Whilden, President of the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association for the ceremonial ribbon cutting of Ocean Grove’s newly rebuilt boardwalk.
At 1:15pm, Christie will sign S846/504, a Boating Safety Act which increases the penalties for leaving the scene of a boating accident, at the NJ State Marine Police Services Bureau Station in Point Pleasant Borough. Follow the bill signing, Christie is scheduled to walk the Point Pleasant Beach boardwalk.
Would Allow Houses of Worship Same Status as Other Non-Profits in Seeking Federal Disaster Assistance
The House of Representatives voted today to put houses of worship—many of which were severely damaged by Superstorm Sandy but nonetheless continued to serve ravaged coastal communities—on an even playing field with other non-profit organizations seeking disaster assistance.
H.R. 592, the “Federal Disaster Assistance Nonprofit Fairness Act of 2013,” is co-authored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ-04) and Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY-06), and co-sponsored by Peter King (R-NY-02), Eliot Engel (D-NY-16), Trent Franks (R-AZ-08), Michael Grimm (R-NY-11), Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ-02), Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY-04) and Bill Pascrell Jr.(D-NJ-09).
The legislation stipulates that the Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, which funds the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) disaster relief program, is a general government program under which federal assistance following a natural disaster can be rendered using criteria that are neutral with regard to religion. Congress has previously enacted laws providing financial assistance to religious nonprofit institutions, including houses of worship, on terms equal to other eligible nonprofit organizations. The bill now moves to the Senate.
The bill had 10-2 support in the New Jersey delegation. Congressmen Rob Andrews and Rush Holt voted NO.
If passed by the Senate and signed into law by President Obama, the following Monmouth County churches that sustained over $100,000 each from Superstorm Sandy stand to received FEMA funds for rebuilding:
Christ the King (Our Lady of Mt Carmel), Long Branch
Christ the King (Holy Trinity Church, Long Branch)
Photo credit: Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association
Neptune Township’s beachfront and boardwalk in the Ocean Grove section of the Township might not get the estimated $3 million in FEMA funding needed to rebuild because the property is owned by the private non-profit and religious Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association (OGCMA), according to an article by freelance journalist Caren Chesler published at NJSpotLight.
Neptune Township Committee Member and Ocean Grove business owner Randy Bishop, as well as Michael Bascom, the Township’s CFO are working with OGCMA to pursuade FEMA to pay for the repairs on the stretch of beach that connects the regional shoreline from Asbury Park south to Spring Lake.
In a press release posted on OGCMA’s website, President Dr. Dale C. Whilden said, “The Camp Meeting is fully committed to restoring Ocean Grove’s beautiful beachfront, a keystone of our community as well as a protection from ocean storms, and we’re on track to implement a comprehensive beach and boardwalk restoration plan. With God’s blessing and the assistance of our local, state and federal officials, as well as support from individuals and organizations, our beach will open on Memorial Day weekend.”
The religious exemptions clause of New York’s same sex marriage law was supposed to be the great compromise that broke down the barriers to gay couples marrying. Without the protections the clause provided to institutions that objected to same sex marriage on religious grounds, the law would not have passed New York’s legislature or been signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo last year.
New Jersey’s Gay Rights community, which has a history of litigating against religious institutions that refused to allow their properties to be used for civil union ceremonies, embraced the religious exemptions clause and convinced the Democratic leadership of the New Jersey legislature to make same sex marriage the number one priority of the current legislative session. New Jersey’s legislature passed the Marriage Equality and Religious Exemptions Act in February. Governor Chris Christie vetoed the bill and called for the issue to be decided by Constitutional Amendment via referendum. Despite polls indicating that New Jersey voters favor same sex marriage and that the favor Christie’s proposal to decide the issue via referendum, Garden State Equality and their allies in the legislature opposed a referendum, declaring that same sex marriage is a civil right that should not be decided by the majority at the ballot box. Privately, same sex marriage advocates have acknowledged that they expect to lose a referendum, despite the polls that indicate they would win.
New York is leading the way again.
The New York Post reports that a lesbian couple from Westchester is seeking to overturn the religious exemptions provision of New York’s same sex marriage law in federal court. “Jane Roe” and “Jane Doe,” a couple married on October 15, 2011, filed a class action suit in Manhattan because “Roe’s” employer, St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Yonkers, refused to add “Doe” to the Catholic hospital’s medical benefits.
The class-action suit seeks an order declaring that both women are entitled to insurance coverage under federal law. It also says “thousands of legally married, same-sex couples” have been, or will be, denied benefits under similar policies administered by Empire, which is also named as a defendant.
The women are seeking an injunction ordering Blue Cross Blue Shield not to acquiesce to a company that wants to deny same-sex benefits because of religious beliefs, said Jeffrey Norton, their lawyer.