View Full Version : Church me church me.

11-08-2012, 03:00 PM
My Take: Stop using churches as polling places
Editor’s note: The Rev. Barry W. Lynn is executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

By Barry W. Lynn, Special to CNN

I live in Maryland, where we have a lot of controversial questions on Tuesday's ballot, including referenda on marriage equality, the rights of immigrants and the expansion of gambling.

Many churches and other houses of worship have taken stands on these issues and lots of others, which is their prerogative. Although federal law prohibits churches from endorsing or opposing candidates, they have the right to speak out on ballot referenda and on other issues, from abortion to zoning.

All of this church-based political activity makes me uneasy about casting ballots in houses of worship, especially those festooned with political signs. And yet today, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of churches around the country are being pressed into service as polling places.

At Americans United for Separation of Church and State, we get a steady stream of calls about this phenomenon every election season. Some complain of being forced to cast their ballot in a house of worship when there’s a nearby public school, library or community center that could just as easily act as a polling place.

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We shouldn’t dismiss these concerns as whining from an overly sensitive band of people who are religion-phobic. These concerns are legitimate. And some intriguing studies even suggest that voting in a church might influence voters.

The American Humanist Association, which filed an unsuccessful lawsuit against voting in churches in Florida, cited a recent Baylor University study published in the International Journal for the Psychology of Religion that found that people in the Netherlands and England reported more conservative views to a pollster when in the vicinity of a church.

“[The] important finding here,” said the study’s co-author, Wade Rowatt, “is that people near a religious building reported slightly but significantly more conservative social and political attitudes than similar people near a government building.”

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An earlier study by Stanford University reported a similar effect. “Voting in a church could activate norms of following church doctrine,” said Jonah Berger, a Stanford researcher. “Such effects may even occur outside an individual’s awareness.”

In Maryland, this might mean that an on-the-fence voter facing the marriage equality question might be pushed to vote no by something as simple as a sign or pamphlet in the church/polling place. Such material might even affect a soft voter’s candidate choices.

How is this possible? Psychologists call it “priming,” the idea that even subtle visual or verbal cues can affect human behavior.

More studies need to be done to validate and explain this phenomenon. In the meantime it would make sense to avoid using churches as polling places. Neutral sites should always be preferred.

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There are other reasons to skip casting ballots in the basilica.

I’ve talked with people who describe their unease voting on an abortion-related referendum in a Catholic church, where they may be surrounded by posters depicting abortion as a grisly holocaust. Others say they don’t want to back an abortion-rights candidate in a church that is known for anti-abortion activism.

No public library, public school or town hall would display such material next to the voting machines. No government building would have a towering cross in the voting area.

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Many of those who have contacted us about this have reported that churches will not remove this material and that pastors argue that they have a right to keep it up.

As churches become more aggressive in the political arena, the argument that they can be neutral sites for voting, a concept that has been embraced by some courts, comes up short.

I’ve even talked with atheists, Jews, Muslims and other non-Christians who don’t want to exercise a basic constitutional right in a church. These people have nothing against Christianity; they simply don’t believe that a fundamental democratic right should hinge on their willingness to enter a church. (And yes, most of the houses of worship used as polling places are Christian churches.)

People who support using churches as polling places often point to the need to maximize the number of polling locations to increase turnout. That’s a laudable goal, but there are many ways to do this that don’t rely on using churches, like early voting and voting by mail.

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For those who prefer to show up in person on Election Day, there are plenty of schools, libraries, town halls and civic centers to meet the need for polling centers. In small towns and rural areas, well-known commercial sites would make better polling places than churches.

If there is absolutely no other option than voting in churches, I recommend that election officials make it clear to officials at the church that they must play by the same rules as every other site.

That means no politicking inside a certain zone. And the area where the voting occurs should be cleansed of all religious symbols and political material. The voting area should be as neutral as possible.

Voting is every Americans right, some would say duty. Let’s do all we can to avoid making people feel unwelcome at the ballot box.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Barry W. Lynn

11-08-2012, 04:01 PM
We got to vote at the late Pastor D. James Kennedy's controversial Presbyterian mega church for many years.

I thought it was fine. Basically in an ante room, not the sanctuary.

The various factions' sign-holders were there, but at approx. the correct legal distance for political advertising-- not in the space or close to the doors as you walked in.

I always wanted to hear that huge pipe organ fired up and played, but no. (Costs them about $100k in extra air conditioning to keep the temp steady to keep the pipes in tune.)

11-08-2012, 04:38 PM
Down here in state and fed elektions i stand in line at the skool (its uzually a skool), for praps 1 minute (sometimes there iz zero wait).
For local gov there aint no queue, its 100% postal voting.

All voting iz kompulsory, unless u are 70yr.

Most elektions are sudden, and all over in say 4 weeks, dunno for sure, no-one cares much, uzually u forget that it iz elektion day untill a friend etc mentions it in passing.
Often u know someone who tells u they forgot untill too late, happens all the time, yawn.

11-08-2012, 05:52 PM
Barry Lynn is an enemy of freedom and should be relegated back under the rock from whence he came.

11-08-2012, 06:19 PM
Barry W. Lynn
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Barry W. Lynn, Esq. (born 1948) has been the Executive Director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State since 1992.[1] He is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, and a prominent leader of the American religious left. He is known to be a strong advocate of separation of church and state.

Lynn was born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, but his family moved to nearby Bethlehem when he was a child. He attended Bethlehem's Liberty High School, graduating in 1966.[2]

In 1970, Lynn received his B.A. from Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania and his theology degree from Boston University School of Theology in 1973. After attending law school at night, he graduated from the Georgetown University Law Center.[1]

After law school, he continued to work with the United Church of Christ to gain amnesty for young men who chose self-exile to protest the Vietnam War. Before going to Americans United, Lynn held positions related to religious liberties. In the mid to late '80s he was legislative counsel for the Washington ACLU office, where he frequently worked on church-state issues. From 1974 to 1980 Lynn held positions within the national offices of the United Church of Christ, including two years for the Church's Office of Church in Society in Washington, D.C. as legislative counsel.[1]

Lynn has appeared frequently on radio broadcasts and television to debate and discuss First Amendment issues, including MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour, NBC's Today Show, Nightline, Fox Morning News (Washington, D.C.), CNN's Crossfire, Lou Dobbs Tonight, and Anderson Cooper 360°, The Phil Donahue Show, Meet the Press, CBS Morning News, ABC's Good Morning America, NBC Nightly News, ABC World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, and Larry King Live. He was formerly a weekly commentator on church-state issues for UPI Radio, and served for two years as regular co-host of Buchanan and Company on the Mutual Broadcasting System.

Lynn currently hosts the radio program Culture Shocks,[3] which can be heard on 1160 am in Washington D.C. and on several stations nationally including the syndicated Genesis Communications Network.[4]

Lynn's first book, Piety & Politics: The Right-Wing Assault on Religious Freedom (ISBN 0-307-34654-4), was published in October 2006.

[edit] Legal actions and stances

In 2006, Lynn argued that Focus on the Family’s efforts to bring up moral issues in the 2004 election represented “a blatant effort by Dobson to build a partisan political machine based in churches ... [Dobson] has made it abundantly clear that electing Republicans is an integral part of his agenda and he doesn’t mind risking the tax-exemption of churches in the process.”[5][6]

A separate organization[7] unrelated to Lynn's Americans United later filed a formal complaint with the IRS over Dobson's political endorsements. Lynn did not support this complaint, and the IRS determined that since the endorsements were given by Dobson as a private individual, they did not violate federal tax law.

Americans United filed suit against the InnerChange Freedom Initiative (IFI), a program of Prison Fellowship Ministries. IFI's had contracted with the state of Iowa to provide in-prison rehabilitation programs. The suit alleged that the Iowa program violated the separation of church and state in the Constitution. Lynn asserted that the program was saturated with Christian fundamentalism and treated non-fundamentalist inmates like second-class citizens.

Prison Fellowship Ministries responded with claims of the program's alleged effectiveness in reduced recidivism (two studies - one by the State of Texas [8] and one by the University of Pennsylvania [9] - support these claims, while according to the Americans United website, a professor at UCLA has "debunked" one of the studies as "statistically flawed.")[10] Two federal courts agreed with Lynn that the program was unconstitutional.

After a federal court struck down the program, Prison Fellowship appealed to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The state of Iowa joined with IFI in appealing the decision. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals panel consisted of three judges: Duane Benton, Roger L. Wollman and retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor sitting by special designation. On December 3, 2007, this panel unanimously affirmed the lower court decision, and the IFI program was removed from the Iowa prison.[11]

Lynn was very critical of the Stupak–Pitts Amendment, which was supported by the Catholic Church, and which aims to restrict the federal funding of abortion in recent health care legislation.[12]

Gayle in MD
11-09-2012, 09:31 AM
I totally agree with Mr. Lynn, who is a brilliant man, BTW.

I belong to, and support his organization, as well.

It is long past time for the IRS, to exercise its duty, and tax those religious organizations which blatantly direct their parishoners to vote for their preferred candidates, impose their religious views upon voters, from their pulpits, to endorse candidates of their choosing, or form political organizations for their exploitation.

It's wrong, and it's unconstitutional!

11-09-2012, 03:11 PM
First tax loophole i would kloze iz anything konnekted to religion.

Gayle in MD
11-09-2012, 03:18 PM


11-09-2012, 03:53 PM
There must be some way of making billiards a religion. The table iz an altar. Play iz a religious rite. Players are priests. The balls god's creations. The staff 13mm and uzually 2pce. The rules are god's commandments. Thou shalt not skratch. Oldendays players are prophets and saints. St Hoppe. Billiards books are bibles.
All fully deduktable.

Gayle in MD
11-09-2012, 04:01 PM
Yeah, but everyone doesn't think that way.

Pool has balls, holes, strokes, butts, Tits, shafts for stroking, hmmm...gotta go.

/forums/images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/grin.gif /forums/images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/wink.gif

11-09-2012, 04:04 PM
Hmmmmmm. An idea. Put the tables in an old church. And if the fed duzz a raid, hav everyone put down their cues and sing a hymn.

11-10-2012, 02:17 AM
<div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Originally Posted By: Gayle in MD</div><div class="ubbcode-body">Yeah, but everyone doesn't think that way.

Pool has balls, holes, strokes, butts, Tits, shafts for stroking, hmmm...gotta go.

/forums/images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/grin.gif /forums/images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/wink.gif </div></div>

Gotta go play some "pool" right? /forums/images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/smile.gif St.

Gayle in MD
11-10-2012, 05:57 AM