Author Emily Dietle
My focus is on state-church separation & social issues. I'm an avid reader, and feel that one of our most valuable tools is the free movement of information and ideas. | @emilyhasbooks
My family’s prayers have been answered. This past Tuesday, I went to church. As an atheist, what would compel me to do this? It was Election Day in the United States, and the polling place that I’m registered to is Willow Meadows Baptist Church, in Houston, TX. Of the 396 polling places in Harris County, 68 (17%) are Churches or religious centers- all of which are Catholic or Protestant Christian establishments.
Churches are not community centers, open to all to enjoy; they are buildings owned by private organizations peddling particular ideologies. As author Austin Cline has previously stated, the first problem with creating polling places within churches is that it is wrong to force people to enter a “house of worship” in order to exercise their civil right to vote. Not only does it put a burden on the individual seeking to cast their ballot by possibly influencing their vote and making them undoubtedly uncomfortable, it also puts churches in a bind. “Churches that are seasonally transformed into polling stations must allow signs on their property that support positions that they oppose.”
It’s been argued with me that if you “really want to vote, you would go through any amount of challenges” and that “you’re weak if your views are changed by the location you’re polling in.” Not only does this overlook how easily influenced we are as humans, but it also obscures our nation’s aim to increase access to our fundamental right to vote and decrease the burdens of doing so.
I can understand how the Christian majority does not see a problem with requiring citizens to enter their churches in order to cast a ballot, they don’t view themselves as anything less than pure and righteous. They are blind to the history of discrimination and hatred that their leaders and church members have imposed on those not in their circle of faith. Yes, we must acknowledge the increase in positive interfaith work amongst the more liberal churches, but that does not re-colour the situation, especially for those in sternly conservative precincts across the nation.
This isn’t an issue that only affects atheists, agnostics, or nones. Requiring that any citizen enter a ‘house of worship’ that expresses their disdain and disgust with gay and transgendered persons, people of other or no faith, single mothers, or any number of ‘sinful’ lifestyles that they oppose is unconscionable, and it is maligned with a government that for it’s own best interests should remain secular.
You have two years until mid-term elections. Write letters to the editor. Write to your members of congress. I urge you each to express your concern with this poor practice. If you have more to give than your words, join any or all of the following organizations that actively fight for church-state separation: American Atheists, Americans United, Freedom From Religion Foundation.
Almeda United Methodist Church. Beebe Tabernacle Christian Methodist Episcopal. Bering United Methodist Church. Braeswood Assembly of God. Church of Christ in Champions. Church of Christ Lake Houston. Cornerstone Baptist Church. Cullen Missionary Baptist Church. Emmanuel Deliverance Temple of Refuge Inc. Encourager Church. Faith American Lutheran Church. Faith Christian Center. Faith Presbyterian Church. First Baptist Church Heights. First Baptist Church Huffman. First Baptist Church Tomball. Glenbrook United Methodist Church. Gloryland Baptist Church. Good Shepherd Episcopal Church. Grace Lutheran Church. Greater Lighthouse Church of God in Christ. Greater Love Baptist Church. Greater New Hope Missionary Baptist Church. Greater Park Hill Church of God. Greater True Light Baptist Church. Heights Presbyterian Scout House. Hill Zion Missionary Baptist Church. Immanuel United Church. Knights of Columbus Hall. L I N C Pasadena Mission Center. Living Faith Baptist Church. Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church. Mount Olive Baptist Church. Mt. Moriah Baptist Church. Nassau Bay Baptist Church. Nazarene Activity Center. New Canaan Missionary Baptist Church. New Mount Calvary Baptist Church. New Mount Carmel Baptist Church. Norris Chapel United Methodist Church. North Belt Baptist Church. Notre Dame Catholic Church. Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Catholic School. Parkgate Community Church. Payne Chapel A. M. E. Church. Pilgrim Rest MBC. Rittenhouse Baptist Church. Saint Albans Episcopal Church. Saint Christophers Episcopal Church. Saint George Place Elementary School. Saint John’s United Methodist Church. Saint Lukes Missionary Baptist Church. Saint Marks United Methodist Church. Saint Martins Episcopal Church. Saint Marys Catholic Church. Saint Matthews Catholic Church. Saint Paul’s Missionary Baptist Church. Saint Philip Neri Catholic Church. Saint Pius the Tenth High School. South Union Church of Christ. South Union MBC Annex. St. James Episcopal Church. The Crossing Community Church. Trinity Episcopal Church. Wesley United Methodist Church. Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church. Willow Meadows Baptist Church. Yellowstone Baptist Church.