Saturday, February 12, 2011

Putting Churches to Good Use

You'd think with all the time I've spent at home in the last few weeks, I'd be totally caught up with email and other online tasks. Not so much (and housework went by the wayside, too). I'm just now plowing through mailing lists and blog entries that I normally check daily, so this article about a Florida atheist group complaining about a Baptist church being used as a polling place just now came to my attention.

"We must insist that the polling place be moved to a more secular environment," the director of the atheist group wrote. The Freedom From Religion Foundation takes a similar stance: "the government cannot compel a citizen to enter a house of worship" and "there has only been limited litigation" with regard to absentee voting as a "reasonable [alternative] for those objecting to entering a church to vote."

The FFRF makes good arguments against using (private) churches and in favor of using (public, secular) facilities like malls, libraries, fire stations, and schools as polling places, including the availability of handicap-accessible parking and the educational benefits to students. I can personally vouch for the latter. I remember walking past long lines of adults waiting to vote when I was in elementary and middle school, and wanting to be all "grown up" so I could go into one of those little booths and cast my own votes. Nonetheless, I'm really not bothered by the fact that my own polling place is a Baptist church. It's conveniently located and has plenty of parking space (although it's an older building and I'm not sure how handicap-accessible it is). I take perverse delight in the knowledge that my vote almost certainly cancels out the vote of one of the church's members. And I think it's nice to see the building actually being used for a legitimate purpose!

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