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Editor's Notebook: Should Churches Be Barred from Being Polling Places?

Is it just me or is this just going too far?

I am not a particularly religious person.  I haven't been to church in a long time though I don't have an issue with people worshiping.  With that said, I'd like readers to voice their opinion on this press release I received earlier today. 

This resonates with me because my polling place has changed from the Benicia Senior Center to the Gateway Church.

Personally I don't think where I vote is nearly as important as if I vote.  

For the record I think a church is a better place to vote than a firehouse because at a church I probably won't get in the way of people who sometimes need to move fast in order to save lives and property.

Here is the press release:

Stating that “churches are an unconstitutionally hostile environment for nonreligious voters,” the North Carolina State Board of Elections has been asked by the American Humanist Association (AHA) to cease allowing the use of churches as polling places.

The AHA’s legal department, the Appignani Humanist Legal Center, sent a letter on May 31, 2012, to State Board of Elections Executive Director Gary O. Bartlett saying that state and federal law requires that “appropriate polling places must be neutral civic locations, welcoming to all voters,” and “the use of churches as polling places is, in addition to being a violation of state law, unconstitutional.”

When North Carolinians went to the polls on May 8 to vote on Amendment One, the amendment to the state’s Constitution banning equal marriage rights, news reports highlighted how signs outside of churches being used as polling places displayed messages supporting the amendment. This practice is just one example of a broader situation in the state and across the country in which voters encounter religious messages and influences in what should be neutral polling places.

“Citizens are forced to enter a religious structure and encounter religious messages simply to exercise their fundamental right to vote,” wrote Appignani Legal Center Director William J. Burgess in his letter. “This violates the Establishment Clause [of the U.S. Constitution], which requires the separation of church and state.”

In further support of the request to “take formal action to change the manner in which private polling places are selected and regulated,” Burgess cites scientific studies that show that “subtle environmental cues in a polling place can significantly, but unconsciously, affect citizens’ real-world votes” mainly due to what’s known as the “priming effect” which “nudges voters in a predictable direction [leading] to a systematic, non-random bias in individual’s decision-making.”

As a remedy, the election board is asked to use its authority to issue regulations barring the use of churches as polling places in favor of secular venues such as schools, libraries, fire stations, municipal government offices, courts and recreation centers.

A copy of the letter can be found online here: http://humanistlegalcenter.org/legal/legal-center-opposes-the-use-of-churches-as-polling-places-in-north-carolina/

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The American Humanist Association (www.AmericanHumanist.org) advocates for the rights and viewpoints of humanists. Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, DC, its work is extended through more than 140 local chapters and affiliates across America.  Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism, affirms our responsibility to lead ethical lives of value to self and humanity.

The Appignani Humanist Legal Center (humanistlegalcenter.org) is a project of the American Humanist Association that provides legal assistance to defend the constitutional rights of secular Americans by challenging violations of the separation of church and state guaranteed by the Establishment Clause and seeking equal rights for humanists, atheists and other freethinkers.

Tell me in the comments section: Am I not being sensitive?

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If there’s something in this article you think should be corrected, or if something else is amiss, call editor JB Davis at 707-628-0051 or email him at benicia@patch.com.

"The Black Panther of Poetry" June 03, 2012 at 07:31 PM
LOL..."The polls would most certainly be up". I'll be here all week or at least until Election Day!!!
"The Black Panther of Poetry" June 03, 2012 at 07:37 PM
Adam, Thems' fighting words...Don't let Babaloo hear you say that... I mean he and his posse attacks me all the time for less(so they would like for me to think so/but I know why they attack me). I am not color blind, sorry I meant I am not blind!!!
JB Davis June 03, 2012 at 09:22 PM
I think that may be the key. Making sure that any positions the church holds regarding a candidiate or an issue is not viewable to anyone who is entering the area to vote.
Babaloo June 06, 2012 at 04:46 AM
man ,,,this guy bobby,,,what an "idiot??"
Babaloo June 06, 2012 at 04:46 AM
well..he lied....what world are you in we live in california...not all these other states you name in your rants...

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