Voting Locations In Churches Cross Separation Line

image of Exterior view of a Church used as polling location, showing a anti-abortion sign
Exterior view of a Church used as polling location, showing a anti-abortion sign

While checking out my hometown newspaper Monday I found a listing of the voting locations for the Presidential election on Tuesday November 6th. The thing that bothered me is a majority of the voting locations are located in churches. Back when I was a kid the majority were in schools. I can understand why they don’t have them in the schools today but having them in churches is not a good idea either for a government based on secular principles.

City Precincts

FINDLAY WARD 1

Precincts 1-A and 1-B will vote at the Senior Center building, 339 E. Melrose Ave.

Precincts 1-C and 1-D will vote at Stonebridge Church, 2111 Stonehedge Drive.

Precinct 1-E will vote at First Church of the Nazarene, 2501 Broad Ave.

WARD 2

Precincts 2-A, 2-B, 2-F and 2-G will vote at Stonebridge Church, 2111 Stonehedge Drive.

Precinct 2-C will vote at First United Church of Christ, 2100 Greendale Ave.

Precincts 2-D and 2-E will vote at St. John’s Lutheran Church, 1701 Tiffin Ave.

WARD 3

Precincts 3-A and 3-D will vote at St. Marks United Methodist Church, 800 S. Main St.

Precincts 3-B and 3-C will vote at Bible Methodist Church in the Youth and Family Center, 529 Stadium Drive.

Precinct 3-E will vote at First Church of the Nazarene, 2501 Broad Ave.

WARD 4

Precincts 4-A, 4-B, 4-C and 4-D will vote at St. Andrew’s United Methodist Church, 120 W. Sandusky St.

Precinct 4-E will vote at St. Marks United Methodist Church, 800 S. Main St.

WARD 5

Precincts 5-A, 5-B, 5-C and 5-D will vote at First Church of the Nazarene, 2501 Broad Ave.

Precincts 5-E and 5-F will vote at the Senior Center building, 339 E. Melrose Ave.

WARD 6

Precincts 6-A, 6-B, 6-C, 6-D and 6-E will vote at First Presbyterian Church, 2330 S. Main St.

Precinct 6-F will vote at St. Marks United Methodist Church, 800 S. Main St.

Precinct 6-G will vote at the Hancock County engineer’s office on Carlin Street.

FOSTORIA WARD 2

The South and North precincts will vote at Holmes School, 500 Parkway Drive, Fostoria.

List as published in 11/05/2012 edition of The Findlay (OH) Courier

List as published in 11/05/2012 edition of The Findlay (OH) Courier

I count eight churches and three non-church locations in which to vote in the city of Findlay Ohio.

When I was kid the polling places were setup in public school buildings. I remember seeing the old lever type machines being stored at my Junior High in between elections. I remember reading an article some time back that they moved the polling places out of the schools due to concerns about adult strangers mixing with innocent children. But I also remember in the decades before the change you never heard a story of a kid being molested by someone at the school to vote.

In fact on election day the place they setup for voting was closed to us students for the day – usually in the gym – and it had a separate entrance so there was little chance of kids and adults mixing without someone seeing it.

One big influence that set me up as a regular voter was when our 9th grade Civics teacher, Mr. Corbet, took us to the gym the day before the election when it had just been set up. He walked us through the steps needed to vote and how the polling place worked so when we were old enough to vote we would know exactly how everything worked. Kids today miss out on that kind of physical walk through.

Another excuse used for moving voting locations from a school is the threat of terrorism. People are concerned the nasty jihadists would bomb a polling place and kids might get caught in the violence – even with no evidence that a polling place has been or ever been threatened to be attacked by terrorists.

There are other non-church places voting that can be set up – like at a fire station, a park shelter, or a court house.

But Doug, you say, there is nothing wrong with using a church as a polling place. I disagree:

First, it’s wrong to force people to enter a house of worship which is not their own in order to exercise their civil right to vote.

Some people might have religious objections to it and some may simply be made uncomfortable, but regardless the state is conditioning a person’s ability to exercise the right to vote on their ability to spend time in someone else’s house or worship as well as being subjected to someone else’s religious imagery, messages, and propaganda. Why a person doesn’t like this doesn’t matter; the state has no authority to impose it on citizens.

Second, church polling stations places those churches in a difficult position because they cannot deny others the right to put up signs on behalf of candidates or issues which the church opposes. They must, for example, allow signs supporting abortion or gay marriage even if the church opposes abortion or gay marriage. Why should churches be forced to do this?

Third, research has found that where a person votes can influence their vote — and thus voting in a church may cause a person to vote in ways favorable to that church, the church’s position, or Christianity generally. It’s bad enough that forcing people to vote in churches privileges Christianity implicitly, but this research indicates that doing so privileges Christianity explicitly as well through the law.

Finally, politicians can place polling stations in churches or other houses of worship where religious leaders can post signs and messages which political leaders are barred from doing. I wonder how many would discover a new appreciation for church-state separation if the polling stations were located in mosques or atheist centers?

Polling Stations Shouldn’t Be Located in Churches or Houses or Worship

There have been lawsuits against having voting locations in churches which have not succeeded yet but that doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.

I think if we support a government founded on a separation of church and state, as we have here in the US, then having polling places in churches is at least ethically wrong.

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