Posted by Rachel Leigh - email
WEST PALM BEACH, FL (WFLX) - For the first time in more than 30 years, a West Palm Beach church will not serve as a voting location on Election Day, and it's all because of one noun and one verb on a streetside readerboard sign on Congress Avenue.
The sign's message offended a handful of voters, and the pastor refused to take it down.
Right after the August primary, Belvedere Baptist Church Pastor Ray Henry got a call from the Palm Beach County supervisor of elections office, Susan Bucher. He was told to take the sign down, or they would no longer remain a voting location.
"We were very surprised. [I] never got a call quite like that," Henry said. "It's a message, I think, I've put up in years past. 'The best vote you can cast is to make Jesus Christ your Lord.'"
Henry refused to take down the message because, he said, it complies with state law: It's more than 100 feet away from the front door of the voting location, and doesn't mention a specific candidate or issue.
They even checked with with the state Attorney General's office, the state Board of Elections, as well as several local attorneys. "We have people of all flavors: Independents, Republicans, Democrats (in our congregation)," Henry said. "We weren't even thinking about that. We were trying to get out a Christian message. That is an infringement on our First Amendment rights."
Susan Bucher, the county's elections supervisor, admits the sign does not violate any election rules.
Bucher wouldn't disclose how many people complained, but said at least two people complained. "It was an isolated incident in that there was a religious voting message combined together," Bucher said. "And that made our voters uncomfortable. The voters that I spoke with indicated that they wished not to go to that location."
Henry says he's not willing to compromise his message for "at least two" unhappy voters, so it will stay on the marquee. "At least until November 3," Henry said, laughing.