Ocean Grove, N.J., is one of those idyllic seaside towns on the Jersey Shore. Buildings from the turn of the 20th century dot the landscape, and it’s such an evocative place that it has earned the nickname “God’s Square Mile.”

The Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association, a Methodist group, established the town just over 150 years ago, and it still owns the small beach and boardwalk and hosts year-round activities. Even though the town itself isn’t a purely religious enclave, the organization still owns the land that the town and its businesses sit on. explains that “the Camp Meeting Association still owns all the land and has enormous influence on the community and its residents. When buying a home in Ocean Grove, residents must enter into a land-lease agreement with the camp, meaning while residents and businesses can own buildings in Ocean Grove, the Methodist group owns the land.”

After the town’s largest historic pier sustained damage from Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the association launched an extensive campaign to rebuild it. The groundbreaking took place in July, but the design of the pier has caused consternation for some in the community.

The finished pier will be in the shape of a cross. This rendering of the pier, provided with permission of the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association, shows what the completed construction will look like.

Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association (used with permission)

Some LGBT residents around Ocean Grove aren’t happy with the pier’s design.

Douglas Grote, a retired Presbyterian pastor who lives in the town, has sent several letters to officials at the state and local level on behalf of members of the LGBT community, calling the pier design “Christian bullying.”

“I am so deeply concerned,” Grote told ”And I am so concerned [for] my neighbors who are scared and bullied.”

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Shane Martins, an attorney and Ocean Grove resident who is gay, says people are “being hurt” by the pier.

“Once this pier is built like a cross, I believe that will be the point of a no return,” he said to “To say (the cross-shaped pier) doesn’t represent Christian nationalism — anyone who says that isn’t being honest.”

Christian nationalism? Christian bullying? It doesn’t take an architect, a planning and zoning expert, or a theologian to realize that both accusations stretch far beyond credibility.

Since the pier is on privately owned land, the pier’s design doesn’t require zoning approval, and the state has approved of the plans.

Michael Badger, president of the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association, is pleased with the general reception to the pier, as well as the support the association has received from the community. He told that the design is “highly functional, to be in the shape that it’s been designed to be.”

Badger told PJ Media that other piers across the country adopted a similar design — including the pier at Coney Island before Hurricane Sandy — and that the design has a practical component. It gives more visitors the ability to walk to the edge of the pier and take in the sights from every direction. It will also be a public pier that doesn’t require visitors to be members of the association to enjoy.

The Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association is no stranger to controversy. The association turned down a same-sex couple’s request for a civil ceremony in 2007, leading a judge to find it in violation of anti-discrimination laws. As a result, the association no longer allows weddings of any kind on the boardwalk.

The association isn’t backing down on the pier, either. Construction will begin in September, and everyone involved is looking forward to the pier serving the community well.

“The completed pier will provide a publicly accessible attraction for all to enjoy; new opportunities for our community; future programs, and enjoyment for generations to come,” says the fundraising website for the pier project.

There’s no bullying involved in that.

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