A grandmother in Texas was recently forced to cover her Vote the Bible t-shirt while voting early at City Hall.
Kay Hill of Taylor says that she was told by election officials that her shirt was “offensive,” and that she must either cover it or not vote.
“When I walked in, one of the election ladies said to me, ‘I’m going to have to ask you to step into the restroom and turn your shirt inside out, covering the words, because those words may be offensive to some people,'” Hill explained. “And I said, ‘Well, that’s offensive to me, asking me to turn my shirt inside out … in order to vote.'”
Hill states that after she told the woman that she did not wish to invert her shirt, the workers advised that she should go home and change.
When Hill replied that she preferred not to do that either, the election worker repeated that the shirt could be offensive.
“I said, ‘Well, I didn’t wear a jacket,'” she explained. “And when I said that, one of the other ladies got up and gave me her sweater jacket, and said, ‘Here, you can wear mine.'”
Hill says that the worker that first confronted her then helped her to put on the jacket to ensure that the words were completely covered. She then went to vote, but states that she was very saddened by the whole situation.
“I felt very embarrassed, humiliated, and offended myself,” Hill said.
Following the incident, Hill called the county election office and asked if there was a dress code for voting. She was told that Texas state law forbids “electioneering,” and was forwarded to the Williamson County election administrator, who stated that her shirt could have been construed as an endorsement for a particular political party.
When members of the media questioned election officials about the matter, they repeated that Hill’s shirt violated the Texas election code, which forbids electioneering 100 feet from, or inside of, any polling place.
“Electioneering would cover wearing a hat, a pin, a t-shirt or a sign that would indicate a position for a political party, candidate or proposition,” Connie Watson, Public Affairs Manager of Williamson County told local television station Fox7. “Her shirt did say vote, so it did have to do with voting.”
Following the matter, Hill sought legal assistance from Texas Values, a Christian organization in Austin that is a branch of The Liberty Institute.
“This is obviously religious, free expression, and no one should be put in a position having to choose religious freedom over deciding to vote,” Jonathan Saenz, the president of the organization, told reporters. “Electioneering only prohibits supporting or opposing a candidate, measure or political party. The Bible is not candidate or a ballot measure.”
Texas Values says that it sent a letter to government officials to request a formal apology and to urge them to change their policy, but Administrator Rick Barron replied by remarking that Hill is “politically naive.”
Other government representatives are also upholding the decision to have Hill cover her Vote the Bible t-shirt.
“We back the actions of our appointed elections workers at the county and precinct level,” Williamson County Judge Dan Gattis said. “If a citizen does not agree, they need to follow the proper channels to complain.”
Hill is believed to have done just that. According to reports, she filed a complaint with the office of the Texas Secretary of State on Friday.
“[I]t’s not partisan to have the Bible on your shirt. We all as Christians should do [what] we feel in our hearts is the right thing,” Hill said. “I prayed about it, and I just feel that it’s the right thing that I should step up and tell my story, so that other people don’t have to go through the same thing that I went through, because I don’t think it’s right.”