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Minnesota churches violate polling place ban on political speech

By David Ferguson
Tuesday, November 6, 2012 12:44 EDT
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Churches that are also polling places in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota are being accused of displaying political speech well within the designated 100-foot line around polling places within which political speech and attempts to influence votes are forbidden. According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune‘s “Whistleblower” blog, some voters are encountering posted prayers against same sex marriage in polling locations that are Catholic churches, while another church polling place spent the morning flying a banner from its main building that read, “Strengthen marriage, don’t redefine it.”

Stephanie Weiss, a voter in West St. Paul, shot a photo with her phone of a prayer in the form of a letter on Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis letterhead posted 15 feet from the polling place door at West St. Paul’s St. Jospeh’s Catholic Church.

“Heavenly Father,” it began, “Through the powerful intercession of the Holy Family, grant to this local Church the many graces we need to foster, strengthen and support faith-filled, holy marriages and hold families.”

Weiss said that she wasn’t sure whether the prayer amounted to political speech, but that she found it offensive.

“I thought, this is why you can’t campaign within 100 feet. This is how you disenfranchise people, right here,” she told the Star-Tribune. “If it isn’t campaign material, it was still a really insightful experience for me, but I’m shaking.”

A spokesperson for the Archdiocese said that he would look into the matter.

In South St. Paul, the St. John Vianney Catholic Community church was displaying a banner this morning that read, “Strengthen marriage, don’t redefine it.” Desmond Jensen of St. Paul sent a photo in the “Whistleblower,” but by the time reporter Maria Elena Baca reached church officials, they claimed that sign has been taken down.

A spokesperson for Secretary of State Pat Turgeon said that her office is investigating the complaints.

David Ferguson
David Ferguson
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
 
 
 
 
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