Target: U.S. Congress
Goal: Stop church polling stations from displaying coercive political messages
Many churches attempt to influence the voting decisions of Americans when individuals show up to vote on election day. Such attempts include everything from displaying blatant political messages to subtly hanging posters of particular candidates around the polling area.
For example, on election day in South Saint Paul, Minnesota, a Catholic church greeted voters with a banner that read “Strengthen Marriage, Don’t Redefine It.” A Baptist church in Morehead City, North Carolina, similarly displayed the message “Vote For Marriage” on its marquee. Another church in North Carolina displayed the message, “A true marriage is male and female and God.”
These messages were displayed when a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage was being voted on in these states. These churches, while serving as polling places, placed these messages outside the “buffer zone” where politically influential material like the aforementioned slogans are banned.
Nonetheless, it is clear that the churches were actively attempting to influence the vote of those who entered the polls that day. In another instance, a Catholic church in Boulder, Colorado displayed a sign that read, “3,300 Abortions Daily in USA.” Though this sign was also legally outside the buffer zone, the church is no longer used as a polling place.
Churches often serve as convenient polling locations in communities that lack a sufficient number of schools, libraries, and community centers to accomodate its residents. Nonetheless, churches that use slogans and political displays to influence the decisions of voters on election day are not acceptable places for voting to take place. Tell Congress to make sure churches are politically responsible if they’re going to function as a polling station.
Dear U.S. Congress,
Churches often serve as convenient polling stations in communities without easy access to schools, libraries, and community centers. However, some churches use this as an opportunity to influence voters by displaying explicitly political messages. These messages often lean towards anti-gay, anti-choice perspectives.
While churches absolutely have the right to hold and express a political opinion, it should not be displayed prominently on election day. This undermines polling centers entire purpose: to be a politically neutral space for the casting of votes. When this space is tainted with explicit political bias, the American democratic process is also undermined.
Churches all over the U.S. are guilty of attempting to influence voters with slogans and messages displayed on their marquees. While certainly this is not true of all churches, it is definitely a problem that should be addressed. As elected representatives, please ensure that churches in your respective state are politically responsible when they function as polling stations.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: sfgate.com