Monday, August 30, 2010

Vote Here To Know God

This is what I saw when I voted last week.  I have no problem visiting a church for someone's wedding.  I visited churches voluntarily when we were in England this summer.  I even went to the Anchorage Baptist Temple for Sen. Ted Stevens' memorial.

But when my right to vote at my local polling place requires me to enter a church, it doesn't feel right to me.

What's your problem Steve?  What's the big deal?  It's just a building.  No one is asking you to pray before you vote.  (Would that help get my candidates elected?) 

As I wrote last year when I voted at the Municipal election, "Would anyone be troubled if they had to vote in a mosque?"  Given the debate over a proposed mosque in Lower Manhattan, I'm guessing there are a few people who might not feel comfortable voting in a mosque.  Then why, in a nation that constitutionally protects freedom of religion for all, should anyone be required, in order to vote, to attend a house of worship?

I think it's about power and equality.  When the vast majority of people actively support the idea that every religion should be treated  with equal esteem and respect before the law, when some religions aren't favored over others, when a significant and politically active segment of the population does not believe its their job to convert everyone to their belief - then we can start talking about being less concerned about celebrating religious holidays in public schools and voting in houses of worship.

It seems to me that as the people who have been traditionally privileged before the law - whites and males (is there anyone who doesn't believe that whites and males have been historically privileged in the US?) - are feeling uncomfortable in the US as the laws are being changed to balance things a bit, starting with abolishing slavery, voting rights for women,  rights for women over property and in marriages, equal access to public accommodation, housing,  education, jobs,  and voting.   Isn't this what moving back to basic American values is all about?  Taking back America?  That discomfort they feel, that's how it feels to vote in a church.

[Note:  I set this up to post Monday morning early but accidentally posted Sunday morning.  Before I could correct this, there was already a comment, so I'm posting the comment in this reposting at the correct time.

Dean has left a new comment on your post "Vote Here To Know God":

Where your polling place is has an enormous psychological impact. Great article on this very topic in this month's Miller-McCune Magazine]

[Update Sept. 3:  A Pakistani friend emailed that in Pakistan they do NOT vote in mosques, only in public schools.]


  1. I didn't even want to set foot in the financial, power and political hungry ABT for the Senator's funeral but it was a price to pay my respects to Alaska's rain-maker and representative of all Alaskans even if you didn't belong to his party or contribute to his campaigns.

    Everyone rightly complimented the ABT in pulling off the logistics and the smooth planning necessary for such a high profile event with little lead time, and the memorials were touching and telling of the man we came to honor - but hate and fear monger Prevo's patting of his back and taking credit for Stevens' salvation and overturned conviction was nauseating and indicative of his ego.

    I saw on Mudflats a photo of the Bethel Pentacost church telling people how to vote on Ballot Measure 2. At least voting wasn't on the premises, but it goes to show how Alaska's churches thumb their noses at legalities - it's only for sinners I suppose.

  2. When the Alaska constitutional amendment limiting marriage was voted upon in 1998, our local polling place was in a church which national body rejected same-sex marriage in any form.

    I brought my concern to election officials before voting but location logistics was the concern, not symbolism. I was reasonable and silently entered that church to vote that terrible day.

    I don't think people knew what it felt like. Thanks for trying to point it out, Steve.

  3. This is an interesting concept to chew on, since I share your predilections toward attending church. We vote in a church, too (but in the activity room, not in the actual sanctuary, so if you didn't notice the sign by the street you might think you were still in the community center where we used to vote). I have never felt impinged upon by religion when I go there to vote. Instead, now that I think about it, I guess I feel reassured because the church is voluntarily playing its proper role in democratic society: offering its resources to support the common good. They don't require you to show a membership card or cross yourself or recite from the Bible in order to vote; all comers accepted, even non-Christians. They are literally rendering unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's. I have no problem at all with that -- only when organized religion tries to take over the things that are Caesar's and the people that are not their own members.

  4. Kathy in KY, thanks for your thoughtful comments here and elsewhere.

    I want to think this should be ok, but there are two issues here that still matter for me.
    1. the fact that we have some churches in the US trying to make this a Christian - their brand - nation, and they get involved in politics; and

    2. the issues raised by the link sent by Dean (update at end of the post) and echoed by Jay, that voting locations can affect both who votes and how they vote. I think we need more research on the impact of the voting place on the election.

  5. Steve -- I had not followed the link to Miller-McCune when I wrote my comment yesterday, but I just read it. I find many of their ideas intriguing (especially like the non-precinct Vote Center) but can't say that I agree with your summary that voting location has an "enormous" impact. The difference between 53.09 and 55.0, or between 81.5 and 83.0, the only two reported numerical results, may be statistically significant but I would hardly describe it as enormous. I agree with you that more study would be helpful.

  6. Kathy, you're right, significant is a better word than enormous. But those numbers are enough to have changed the Miller-Murkowski outcome, and that is an enormous difference.


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