Voting in a Church? Complain! (September 2000)

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is receiving increasing complaints from members who are having to vote (that most civic duty) in churches.

“Although we can and do write letters to the offending towns and cities where this transgression is occurring,” said Anne Nicol Gaylor, Foundation president, “the people with real leverage for change are those voters who personally must use a church polling place.” Many churches court city government to make them polling places because of the limelight and prestige it gives them. Some government entities, especially in the South, pay churches for hosting a polling site.

Their bake sales and product sales are an added financial incentive for some churches to seek this exposure. Of particular concern about the practice in small communities is the lack of neutrality when church members are running for office. “Can’t you just hear the priest saying, ‘Come on down and vote for Joe next Tuesday!'” said Gaylor.

“In a small local election the poll’s placement in a church could have a definite effect on the outcome of a race. Polling places should be neutral.” Complaints should be made to a voter’s representative on the City Council, Town Board or other governing body. Be prepared to suggest alternate publicly owned sites.

Freedom From Religion Foundation