Why are voting boothes allowed in churches?

Ya know with the whole “separation of church and state”.

Why is this allowed?

If I am not mistaken, the “separation” does not refer to the physical church building, especially in its use as a community hall.

But I may be wrong. Around these parts the voting booths are set up in grammar schools. I have never gone to a house of worship to vote.

Well, I’d guess that it’s because it’s being used as a convenient public building rather than a church.

Separation of church and state (the exact phrase does not occur in the Constitution, of course) does not mean that the government cannot ask the churches to help at all.

Back when there were fewer public buildings and schools were one-room affairs, the churches were probably the most prominent, largest, centrally placed, and familiar places for voters to go. That really hasn’t changed, although the variety of places we can vote has. I’ve never noticed any voting taking place in commercial establishments, however.

There was only one place I lived where I had to vote in a local church–it was an AME one in Cambridge. I emerged still white and Catholic :smiley: so I don’t think it’s something most people think of one way or another. Also, I live in a very diverse and litigious part of the country and I’ve never heard of, for example, an Orthodox Jew or an Amish person objecting to having to walk into a Methodist basement or whatever.

Why not? Most of the time, a church is a fairly empty building. Even when there are things going on in it, they’re not all directly religous or tied to that church. Besides, in many precints the only good choices for a polling location (enough parking, availability, no conflicts with businesses) are either a school or a church or other religious building. The two main polling locations in my home precint is either the nearby elementary school or the nearby synagogue. When the building is being used specifically for one thing, how can there be a conflict? I betcha you couldn’t find one person in either major party, and most of the minor ones, who would have a problem with this.

I dont have a problem with it at all…Just curious.

I vote at my local firestation anyway. :smiley:

Also, many states have laws that regulate how close the polling place can be to a bar or tavern. Since churchs are not usually located near bars, they have proven to be a good place for voting.

Do Americans go inside the church building itself to vote, or just into the adjacent church hall? Here, polling booths are in church halls.

“Separation of Church and State” is a misnomer. Actually, in constitutional terms, no such thing exists.

The “establishment clause” of the First Amendment is what most people are referring to when they speak of a separation of church and state. It reads, in pertinent part, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”

The First Amendment prohibits government from establishing a state religion, or prohibiting or infringing on one’s free exercise of their chosen religion. Voting machines placed in churches do neither, and are therefore absolutely constitutional.

Court decisions over the years have interpreted various government actions as “endorsing” a particular religion, and therefore prohibited them (nativity scenes on the lawn of City Hall, display of the ten commandments in courthouses, etc. come to mind). These decisions have created the notion, and phraseology, of a “separation of church and state.”

Besides being entirely constitutional, voting machines in church buildings, in many parts of the country, actually facilitate and enhance another of our most precious rights: the right to vote.

In many areas, churches are often most convenient places to install voting machines. Churches are by far the most numerous of “public” buildings. Making voting easier encourages those who otherwise might not, to do so.

Many churches, in my experience, have the church hall in the same building as the church, typically in the basement. At both the church I currently attend and the one I attended growing up, this was the case, as at several other churches I’ve been to. Some churches even use the same space for worship and hall-type events, and just use moveable chairs rather than permanent pews.

My polling place is the “Fellowship Hall” of a nearby Presbyterian church. (That’s what my sample ballot says. Actually, it tells me to go to the green table, which seems oddly specific. But, I digress…)

I’m guessing that this is what you’d describe as the church hall; it’s not the worship space itself, but rather a general purpose large room within the church “campus”. At some churches I’ve attended the fellowship hall (or whatever it gets called) doubles as an overflow room for worship services - often by closed-circuit television.

Thanks brad_d and chronos. Yes, that’s what I meant by “church hall”. I just couldn’t imagine a church letting voters wander through the worship areas in order to vote (particularly if there were pews). But renting the utilitarian church hall out to the government to conduct an election - well, that’s another story.

The last place I lived held elections in a church (there were three churches, a synagogue, a mosque, and a place where a bunch of Sikhs lived within walking distance of my apartment.)

But where I live now we vote at the local elementary school.

I vote in the basement of the Lutheran church at the end of the street. It’s the part of the building that’s usually used for any group or public activity, the same place they’ve occasionally held a rummage sale. Oddly enough, the church I belong to is only a little more than a block away from that one and is also a polling place. (They use the narthex there.) It just isn’t my polling place.

No, no, those are confessionals. :smiley:

The US Constitution does not include the phrase ‘separation of church and state’, but contemporary documents and the philosophies on which the Constitution was based indicate that the ‘establishment clause’ is meant to prohibit the interference of the state in religious matters and vice versa. For example, Thomas Jefferson said that the First Amendment ‘[built] a wall of separation between church and state’. It also would expressly forbid laws respecting a de facto establishment of religion, one that would imply that a specific religion is the religion of the state. A literal reading of the Bill of Rights would also forbid people who are not members of the National Guard from having firearms and would permit a person to be tried twice for the same crime if it is not a capital offense.*

There’s a Catholic News Service story about the issue here. It says that the law doesn’t forbid the practice and that there are few complaints since voting isn’t held in the area used for worship. There are sometimes complaints when the church has taken a stance on a particular issue. It says that most states don’t allow a voter to go to a different polling place if they disagree with voting in a church, but says that Maryland does. It also gives some advantages to using churches: they are well-suited to being used as polling places, they are generally well-known and easy to find, and there are enough of them that voters won’t have to travel very far to get to their polling place. Schools and places like fire stations are probably the only other really convenient locations to use as polling places…but then there’s the issue of religious schools, and fire stations that have endorsed a particular candidate…

*: I felt that it was appropriate to say this because the OP mentions separation of church and state. The quote is from the Letter to the Danbury Baptists of 1802. Appropriate web cites are difficult to find since they all take one side or the other.

I just voted in a local supermarket (near the video section). One of my polling places was a sheet metal supply store.

I would have felt better without Jesus, Mary and St. Catherine and a large crucifix in the polling room. Otherwise no problems. The people there are nice and they don’t make you genuflect or confess in order to vote, although that might help.

I voted in the multi-purpose room of a fundamentalist church today.

Sure, the campaiogning limits were strictly defined, but IN the church, on the bulletin boards in the hall where the queue was, there were vaugely pro-Bush leaning articles tacked up; comparisons of the two candidates on issues such as abortion and same-sex unions, articles from church magazines urging voters to consider moral issues when casting their ballot, and so on.

The two closest wards to my house have polling places in an elementary school (that’s the one I voted in), and a Catholic church (which happens to be the one sponsoring my son’s Boy Scout Troop, so they’re outside it selling coffee and donuts today).

The church polling place is in a classroom, and not anywhere near the main worship area. At least the church has better parking than the school.