Atheist Activist Group Says Houses of Worship Shouldn’t Be Polling Places

church pdA professing atheist and agnostic group that works to separate Church and State has sent letters to two municipalities to express its belief that houses of worship shouldn’t be polling places.

The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) recently wrote to officials in Palm Beach County, Florida and Washington County, Arkansas to outline its views.

“As our country becomes more religiously diverse, Christian images and iconography are increasingly seen by many as symbols of political intimidation,” it wrote to the Washington County Election Commission, noting that 16 of 17 polling places in the county are churches.

“Selecting churches as polling places can serve to unduly influence voters to vote in a particular way that they might not otherwise,” the letter continued. “This is especially true if the voters themselves are promoting or demonizing a particular side of an issue.”

FFRF said that non-believers might also feel intimidated in viewing religious messages on display at houses of worship as it could cause them to sense that they are outsiders.

In Palm Beach County, local citizens had complained about the Islamic Center of Boca Raton being used as a polling place, resulting in the location being changed. But FFRF says that the government shouldn’t use any religious facilities at all for elections.

“We … understand that the county uses numerous Christian and Jewish synagogues as polling places. To our knowledge, those venues were not changed,” it wrote. “[But] many of the concerns expressed to you over the summer regarding the mosque are the same ones FFRF receives from freethinkers and nonbelievers who are forced to vote in churches. They feel uneasy entering a church to cast their ballot.”

  • Connect with Christian News

FFRF therefore asked that these counties use secular facilities as polling places to prevent discomfort.

“The supervisor of elections has the great responsibility of assuring compliance with election laws and selecting polling places accessible to the public but which will remain free of intimidation and voter discomfort,” it stated. “Given your authority and the need to protect the fundamental constitutional principle of separation of state and church, FFRF strongly urges you to remove all houses of worship as polling places for future elections.”

“There are many secular options—like public schools, firehouses, public libraries, or even private businesses—which could accommodate voters and be relied on not to abuse voter trust,” the group suggested.

It is not yet known whether either county plans to respond.

Founding Father Gouverneur Morris, one of the authors and signers of the U.S. Constitution, once said:

“There must be religion. When that ligament is torn, society is disjointed and its members perish. The nation is exposed to foreign violence and domestic convulsion. Vicious rulers, chosen by vicious people, turn back the current of corruption to its source. Placed in a situation where they can exercise authority for their own emolument, they betray their trust. They take bribes. They sell statutes and decrees. They sell honor and office. They sell their conscience. They sell their country. … But the most important of all lessons is the denunciation of ruin to every state that rejects the precepts of religion.”


A special message from the publisher...

Dear Reader, our hearts are deeply grieved by the ongoing devastation in Iraq, and through this we have been compelled to take a stand at the gates of hell against the enemy who came to kill and destroy. Bibles for Iraq is a project to put Arabic and Kurdish audio Bibles into the hands of Iraqi and Syrian refugees—many of whom are illiterate and who have never heard the gospel.Will you stand with us and make a donation today to this important effort? Please click here to send a Bible to a refugee >>

Print Friendly
  • bowie1

    How can churches as polling places be intimidating since the vote is secret and I assume would be supervised by government officials. Our Cdn. church has often been used as a polling station for voters to cast their vote in the downstairs fellowship hall which has no cross on the wall.

  • Emmanuel

    If a person feels anxious, worried or convicted at a church, then they need to address the real issue. And voting is not the issue.

    • james blue

      Would you be happy if your designated polling place was a Mosque?

      • Emmanuel

        I would. I am only there to vote. I am not there to talk theology or argue a point. Go in, cote, leave with my sticker. Why can’t atheists do the same? So it’s a bigger issue than what I wrote.

        • james blue

          Hmm…. I replied and it’s missing, not even showing as deleted.

          Anyway, Good attitude. Having been around Christian and conservative sites/boards for some time I can say that quite a sizeable number don’t share your stance.

          The Islamic Center of Boca Raton was to be a polling place until the complaints came in

          • Emmanuel

            I know. Many Christians don’t know the issues.

      • Duke of Dixieland

        Hate to break this to you, but churches are not the only religious sites where voting takes place.

        You religion-haters really are ignorant of what America in 2016 is like.

        • james blue

          “you religion haters”?

    • Bryan

      Your bible is stupid and wrong.

      • Emmanuel

        And you secretly live by it

  • Stupid Atheist

    I’m certain the devout would have no issue with having to cast ballots at, say, their local noodie bar…

    • JustNTyme

      LOL
      Poor thing, can’t even spell.

  • american4godncountry

    There is no such thing as separation between church and state. If the church wishes to tell the American people the TRUTH! They have that right! And here is the TRUTH: A vote for hillary is a vote for Satan! A Vote for Trump will safeguard our nation, our children and our future! No more gays, no more trans and no more atheists! God Bless Trump/Pence and may God damn those who do not follow in the light!

    • Sporkfighter

      If a church says that, that church risks its tax-exempt status. Churches don’t get to play politics with untaxed money.

      • american4godncountry

        The GOVERNMENT that you so love much has no say in the word of God. Gods word is law and if you ever have a problem of it, then just leave the country. No one is forcing you to stay.

        • Sporkfighter

          Why should I leave my country? You don’t like the Constitution? You go find one you like better. There are counties based on “the word of God”.

          • american4godncountry

            Yes, and your living in one! YOu should leave and you WILL leave once trump and pence gets into office!

          • Sporkfighter

            LOL . . . you kooks are funny.

  • hytre64✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

    If only it were true that voting in a church would actually cause the professing “Christian” voters to actually wake up and realize that ONE political party supports killing the unborn, is in favor of promoting what God calls an abomination (LGBT), and wants to shut down the voice of Bible-Believing pastors.

    • Nidalap

      Don’t be fooled now! BOTH parties are getting in line with those ideals…

    • lonbo

      When churches are required to pay taxes on their properties and profits, their pastors can say any damn fool thing they like. Until then they can keep their faith based hate speech to themselves.

      • Gary Whiteman

        No, we don’t need your permission to speak.
        That comes from God (which you don’t believe in),
        but also from the Constitution (which you better believe in).

        Not one word in the Constitution about restrictions on speech in churches.

        Take your fascism and intolerance elsewhere.

        • lonbo

          I’m not sure to which god you are referring to, yours i presume but regardless, tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organizations may either maintain neutrality and stay tax-exempt or endorse candidates and pay taxes. The choice is theirs. As the law stands, religious leaders are free to endorse whomever they choose, so long as they do so on their own time in their capacity as citizens, not from the pulpit and not as church officials using church resources. This rule is known as the Johnson Amendment, after Lyndon B. Johnson, the Texas senator and later president who helped pass the law in 1954.

          • hytre64✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

            Yes, because Mr. Johnson was offended that a NON-RELIGIOUS 501c3 organization campaigned against him during his Senate Campaign.

          • lonbo

            And 501c3 groups are prohibited from endorsing candidates, whether said groups are religious or not. It’s all quite simple. If they want to forfeit their 501c3 status, they are free to politic all they want.

  • Sporkfighter

    I’m an atheist. I expect churches to do something in the public interest to earn their tax-exempt status. Hosting a polling place is one example. A church near my daughters’ high school hosts SAT, ACT, and AP exams, another example of public service in return for a tax-exempt status.

    • Nidalap

      You can expect all you want. If that church didn’t do any of those things, it would still be tax exempt…

      • lonbo

        It’s time to change that situation and require all religious institutions to pay taxes.

      • Sporkfighter

        Only because the IRS is afraid to touch churches who don’t operate within the law.

        • JustNTyme

          IRS – “afraid”?

          What alternative universe are you in?

          • Rookheight

            The IRS lost a lawsuit against FFRF, which required them to enforce anti-politicking regulations. They still haven’t, despite churches literally mailing their violations to the IRS after “Pulpit Freedom Sunday.” What’s your explanation of that, other than that they are afraid of opening that can of worms?

          • JustNTyme

            You’re an old woman.

  • meamsane

    Inferiority Complexes is not a Constitutional standard. If someone feels like an “outsider” in a given circumstance, make an appointment with your shrink!

    • lonbo

      Separation of church and state is a Constitutional standard. Christian privilege is not.

      • meamsane

        Except that this article has nothing at all to do with any Constitutional standard whatsoever. Since you are not a Christian and apparently don’t want to be, why whine about people that are?

        • lonbo

          The subject of the article is polling places in houses of worship. It is obviously a church/state separation issue. May i remind you that The Constitution of the United States of America is the supreme law of our nation. Religious groups must comply with the law as even your silly bible says.

          • meamsane

            Separation of church and state may be a violation of your minds twisted version of it’s definition, but in fact is not a violation of the actual Constitution of the US.

          • lonbo

            Evidently you’ve never read our secular Constitution of the United States of America. “Separation of church and state” is a phrase used by Thomas Jefferson and others expressing an understanding of the intent and function of the Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause of First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States which reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

            The intent of this clause was to limit the power of the Federal Government in regard to religion thus ensuring freedom of religion in the United States of America.

            The phrase “separation of church and state” is generally traced to a January 1, 1802 letter by Thomas Jefferson, addressed to the Danbury Baptist Association in Connecticut, and published in a Massachusetts newspaper. Jefferson wrote,

            “ “I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.”

  • Gary Whiteman

    When we lived in Richmond, VA, our polling place was at a nearby synagogue (Temple Beth-El, 3330 Grove Avenue). Since (quite unlike atheists) I don’t go through life looking for drama, it never crossed my mind that this might somehow violate the Constitution (because it doesn’t – duh). These atheists apparently aren’t happy unless they’re in high dudgeon 24/7.

    • johndoe

      This atheist doesnt care where the polling places are located

    • Rookheight

      If you had been raised Jewish, and incurred severe psychological trauma in leaving the religion, you might not be so nonchalant about voting in a synagogue. That’s how lots of ex-Christians feel having to vote in a church, and it’s not the government’s place to require them to do so.

  • JustNTyme

    Hey, in a diverse and multicultural America in the 21st century, I guess we all just have to learn to tolerate different kinds of people, don’t we?

    Tomorrow I will be voting at a very liberal Presbyterian church which has a rainbow flag hanging out front (the church is on Rainbow Drive, ironically). I’ve been voting there for 4 yrs, I somehow manage to get through it without getting into a snit or feeling offended (even though, as a Christian, I do find it disturbing that a church claiming to be Christian would endorse something that is condemned in the New Testament). Obviously there are people in my area whose values are different from mine, so I’m not going to make a stink about voting at a pro-gay church. Adults know that majoring in minors is childish.

    On the plus side, the church has lost so many members in recent years (wanna guess why?) that they probably won’t be open much longer. I’d love to see a genuinely Christian group buy the building, take down that silly flag, and actually grow.

    • Bryan

      Your bible is stupid.

      • JustNTyme

        Don’t read it.
        Plenty of porn sites for people like you.

  • james blue

    Didn’t say there were none, I was pointing to an example of the complaints

  • Vanitas Vanitatum

    The Founders were cool with holding political meetings in churches. Patrick Henry gave his famous “Give me liberty or give me death” speech in an Episcopal church. This “separation” nonsense didn’t come along until the SCOTUS just happened to “discover it” in 1947, in the case Everson v Board of Education.

    • Sporkfighter

      Churches served as public meeting places; they were the largest buildings in town. There were providing a public service. Some churches do the same today. Local churches around here have hosted high school music performances, AP exams, SATs and ACTs when the high school couldn’t. Providing service to the public is the reason they were granted tax exempt service in the first place.