|Image sources listed at bottom of the post|
Suppose when you put your ballot into the voting machine the wall behind the machine looked like the poster above. If you were a Muslim, you might or might not object depending on how you felt about your faith and on your understanding of separation of church and state. I don't have any problem with these images on their own. But if I were forced to view these in order to vote in my local election in the United States, I would have a problem.
Well, yesterday this is what I actually saw when I put my ballot into the voting machine.
And here's the wall again with the voting machine:
It turns out that the voting officials were there Monday night checking that all the voting booths and other materials were there, when they discovered the previously religiously neutral room now had religious sayings posted on the wall.
They called the Muncipal Clerk's office and were told to cover the religious sayings and symbols. One of the officials had some butcher paper in her car and covered the wall. The Municipal Clerk told me that they also called the Pastor Monday evening to let him know that this was being done. There was some objection and the Pastor said they would not have voting in the church again if the walls were going to be covered.
Sometime Tuesday morning, the voting official told me, a woman came storming in and tore off the paper covering the wall, crumpled it up, and said to the poll workers, "Remember where you are. This is a church." This turned out to be the Pastor's wife.
According to the Municipal Clerk, the First Church of God at McInnes and Tudor will no longer be a site for elections. The Pastor pulled his church from being used to vote in the future.
I was not quite sure how to approach this story. I think that most readers here understand that the separation of church and state is critical, because people should not be forced to face religious symbols and sayings in order to vote. For some, voting in a church already raises issues as I've posted in the past. And a study (mentioned in the link) suggests that where people vote affects how some people vote.
I added the Islamic 'wall' above for people who do not see any problem voting before a wall full of Christian sayings and imagery. I'm hoping that by imagining being forced to see a different religion's symbols when they voted, they might understand why non-Christians (and Christians) might be bothered by what I experienced yesterday.
After the covering was torn down, the poll workers did their best to minimize voters being forced to view the images by rearranging the polling booths and the voting machine.
I am waiting for a copy of the agreement between the Municipality and voting places and I also have a call in to the Pastor.
Images in Islamic Poster from:
Discover Islam , Islamic Posters,Arlisbest, Dr. Ardnan Mussalam, Urduworld, On Truth and Reality