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Not every physical intersection of “church” and “state” is actually a violation of the First Amendment

firstamendment.jpgWhile I’m not as Lefty as they come, I’m definitely on the liberal side of things, and that includes holding a firm position of “keep the church out of the state’s business.” But sometimes things on this side of the aisle can get just as ridiculous as they often get over on the other side. Down in Florida, for instance, Jerry Rabinowitz filed a lawsuit against the election officials of Palm Beach County, claiming a First Amendment violation. Specifically, Rabinowitz (a member of my fine Jewish tribe, if the name didn’t tip you off) was tweaked that the polling place for his voting precinct was a Catholic church.

Last week, a District Court told Rabinowitz to take his lawsuit and shove it, ruling that the placement of a polling site in a church had a secular purpose and that it “does not have the effect of endorsing religion, and it does not create an excessive entanglement between the Church and state.” The Palm Beach County elections supervisor was obviously relieved with the decision, noting how complicated life would be if the county had to relocate the 100-or-so polling places that are currently placed in religious places. He said it would’ve “caused tremendous upheaval” and then joked “as if we don’t have enough problems” (which is, of course, a reference to the chads that are still hanging over his head from the 2000 election).

Rabinowitz had argued that he was made uncomfortable by having to walk past various crucifixes and an anti-abortion banner to place his vote, which is totally understandable. However, the Court notes that his discomfort didn’t amount to a violation of any Constitutional rights since the stuff wasn’t but up by county officials. As I say, this seems like the right call to me. I’m the first to jump up against the insertion of religion into political places it doesn’t belong, but I see no problem with this type of situation. My current polling place happens to be a fire station, but I would have zero problems going to cast my vote in a church, even knowing that those who run the place think I’m damned to suffer in the fiery pits of hell because I’m Jewish. …Of course, I probably am already damned to suffer in the fiery pits of hell, but it hasn’t nothing to do with me being Jewish.

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Comments

In fact, WPB County, where a sole bureaucrat has absolute discretion over the siting of polling places, somehow found it necessary to use over 100 churches as polling places. In a single county.

Moreover, the government pays these churches rent for using them as polling places.

Sorry, but that's far closer to "excessive entanglement" than "de minimis nuisance."