Ms Rabbit Learns About Gay Marriage and Government Grants
Ms Rabbit was all in a dither this morning about a news story she had seen on TV.
I've tried to warn her about TV newscasts , which are more about stirring up emotions (thus increasing ratings and revenue) , than they are about imparting facts ; but she sort of tunes me out.
She is also very, very conservative – and hates surprises : traits I attribute to her constant worry about hungry predators - ( not that there's anything wrong with that !)
She was so agitated, she could barely speak; but, after sipping a cup of camomile tea, she settled down enough to tell me what was wrong.
It seems some gays in the little seaside community of Ocean Grove, New Jersey want to celebrate same sex unions – now legally recognized in this state- at the Ocean Grove Pavilion ; but the strictly Methodist Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association – which owns the Pavilion – is opposed to the idea. The gays want to have the State Division of Human Rights compel the association to permit the ceremonies-even though it violates the Association's religious beliefs.
“ This is interference with freedom of religion !”, Ms Rabbit cried. “ Besides, I find the idea of same sex unions rather ...repugnant. We rabbits follow the ancient teaching : Eat fruit and multiply !”
“ Mmm... I'd heard that. “
As it happens, there was an excellent article in the Home News Tribune by Rick Malwitz http://www.thnt.com about that very subject. Ocean Grove, NJ is a bit of an oddity:
the property on which the town was built is wholly owned by the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association : a group formed in 1870 to provide devout Methodists with a seashore resort of their own. The land on which all homes and stores are built is leased to the property holders for $ 10 per year , on 99 year leases. ; but,as Rick points out, home buyers know,before moving in, they are entering an unconventional arrangement.
When it was first started, Ocean Grove was a tent city, but, over the years, tents gave way to summer cottages, and cottages gave way to prime examples of Victorian -style year-round homes.
As time went by, the fine Victorian homes became increasingly shabby; but then a small miracle occurred : gay people found the quiet little town attractive, and began refurbishing the housing stock. This attracted others, and what Malwitz describes as “a thriving gay community” began to take shape. Housing prices increased markedly : inspiring others to follow the property improvement lead of their less conventional neighbors.
I explained all this to Ms Rabbit – who still wanted to know how the State could have any standing to regulate the affairs of a religious group on its own private property.
“It just so happens,” I said, “ Ocean Grove has been the recipient of government grants. They received $ 250,000 from the Federal government to repair the boardwalk -and-the roof of the Ocean Grove Pavilion ,following a 1992 hurricane; and they are still receiving a $ 500,000 a year tax break from the State under the Green Acres program. Government grants always have certain strings attached . For example, that Green Acres grant encourages the use of private space for public purposes.”
“ So you see”, I concluded. “ It doesn't matter whether you approve or disapprove of same sex unions – because – as a matter of law, they have already been approved by the State as having legitimate public purpose ; and the State has been paying for the upkeep of that pavilion.”
Ms Rabbit sniffed indignantly, hopped off to her burrow under the rosebush, and began watching a “Bugs Bunny” cartoon.
( In case you're wondering, I do not provide a cable hookup for her. She has a perfectly good set of rabbit ears.)