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Freethought Today · April 2013

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

FFRF action gets polls moved from church

With the help of activist member Kurt Bocksenbaum, FFRF has gotten a polling place in Brown Deer, Wis. moved from St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church to a new community center.  

During the spring 2011 election, citizens who voted at the church were confronted by religious symbols such as a Latin cross and a painting of Jesus, which loomed directly over voting booths. Bocksenbaum asked Village Manager Russell Van Gompel to remove or cover up the religious displays while the polls were open.

After consulting with legal counsel, Van Gompel removed the display. Reportedly, church officials immediately protested and put the display back up.

During the July 2011 recall elections, Bocksenbaum complained again about the displays and was confronted by the church president, who said that the religious displays would not be taken down while the church was used as a polling place.

FFRF Staff Attorney Patrick Elliott had sent a letter on Bocksenbaum’s behalf to village officials July 14, 2011, asking them to move the polling place to a secular location. Elliott wrote, “The Village Board 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.” 

After looking into alternatives, the village’s attorney stated that a planned community center would be used for voting once construction was complete. In the interim, Bocksenbaum voted by absentee ballot. 

At a Feb. 18 meeting, the board unanimously approved moving the polling place to the community center, citing “controversy over having some religious pictures on the wall in the room where voting was held.”

FFRF sent a letter of thanks to the board for making the change.

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