What governs church signage at polling places?
A reader contacted Patch this afternoon because he was offended by what he considered "anti-abortion signs" and crosses erected at his polling place located at Assumption Parish Rectory, 4725 Mattis Road, St. Louis.
As depicted in the photo that accompanies this article, the sign "Life: God's Choice" is located near the door of where voters enter the church. Even more prominent are the multitude of white crosses to reflect lives lost to abortion, which this Patch reader said were erected there within the last week, just in time for Election Day Tuesday. He said the same crosses were added to the church yard earlier this year during the week before primary election voting.
"I find this offensive, and believe it to be inappropriate behavior," said Lynn Byrd, who lives in unincorporated St. Louis County near Lemay Ferry.
Byrd said he had no problem with the church expressing an opinion. "I just do not believe this is appropriate for a polling place. Maybe we just need a different polling place if the church insists on such behavior.
"Just as I believe it would be inappropriate for me to pass out campaign literature, wear a political T-shirt or pin, or loudly express my opinion while on line waiting for my turn to vote, I believe the church has repeatedly crossed the line."
Patch contacted a representative of the St. Louis County Board of Elections and explained the situation. Darryl Brown said all electioneering signage must be 25 feet from the main entrance of polling places. But Patch asked if such church signage is considered "electioneering material." Brown deferred to someone else on staff, who could not come to the phone.
Brown said he thought the signage sounded "illegal" and inquired what church location it was so that they could get it taken down. However, when Patch asked if the same voting regulations apply to permanent signage at churches, he did not know.
Byrd said this afternoon he has researched state laws about polling spots, which vary from state-to-state regarding if churches may be used for voting at all.
"I found one reverend who had some interesting things to say about the psychological impact of polling at churches (period)," said Byrd. He said he also discovered the practice of erecting white crosses at churches serving as polling places to be happening in Minnesota and Colorado as well during this week.
See related special blog to CNN from Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State: My Take: Stop using churches as polling places
- Do you believe churches should be used as polling places?
- Should churches come under the same regulations as any other polling place when it comes to hosting unbiased and impartial environments?
- Do you think this church crossed any moral lines?
- Did you vote at a church today? If so, how comfortable were you with doing so?
Editor's Note: Patch plans to follow-up regarding this matter to get a more definitive answer from authorities after this hectic Election Day is over.