By Charles Layton
Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association officials will have lunch on Saturday with leaders of local and state gay rights advocates. The topic: Camp Meeting speaker Kirk Cameron’s condemnation of homosexuality.
Cameron was also invited, but declined.
According to Ocean Grove United’s co-chairs, Harriet Bernstein and Luisa Paster, the invitation to the Saturday luncheon was extended by Corey Bernstein (no relation), who is 17, a New Jersey resident and a leader in the movement against the bullying of gay and lesbian teenagers. He says he “endured brutal bullying at my former school because I am gay.”
His invitation, addressed to Cameron, said in part: “In a kind, respectful and constructive way, we’d like to talk to you about the pain your words about being LGBT have personally caused me and other LGBT youth… We yearn to grow up in a world that provides us dignity and safety. That is our simple, most heartfelt dream.”
Cameron, a featured speaker at the Great Auditorium this weekend, has ignited protests because of a March 2 CNN interview in which he said homosexuality was “unnatural” and “destructive to so many of the foundations of civilization.”
While continuing its support for Cameron, the Camp Meeting Association has recently expressed an interest in establishing a dialogue with members of Ocean Grove’s gay community. The CMA also issued a statement last month saying it “does not support derogatory remarks about any groups or individuals.”
Saturday’s luncheon is to be at the home of Harriet Bernstein and Luisa Paster. They said CMA President Dale Whilden and six or eight CMA trustees will attend. This was confirmed by Ralph Del Campo, the CMA’s acting administrator. “A few of us will be going and we’re looking forward to it,” he said.
Also attending will be members of Garden State Equality, a New Jersey gay rights organization, and some teenagers who have stories to tell about being bullied because they are gay.
Bernstein and Paster said in an email that they were “thrilled” that CMA officials “will be able to hear the personal stories of these young individuals.” One of the messages gay rights advocates are attempting to send is that harsh anti-gay rhetoric by religious leaders encourages bullying and helps generate a climate of persecution against gays.