Miami, Fla., Dec 7, 2006 / 22:00 pm America/Denver (CNA).A nonobservant Jewish man, whose polling station last month was in a room connected to a Catholic church, has filed a lawsuit in federal court, claiming that casting a ballot on church property is unconstitutional and amounts to a breach of church-state separation, reported the Associated Press.
While the polling place was located in a room inside Emmanuel Catholic Church, Jerry Rabinowitz said he should not have been forced to walk past crucifixes and pro-life banners to get there. He claims elections officials refused to remove or cover religious materials.
"The effect of the defendant's conduct in this case is nothing if not government endorsement of religion," the lawsuit says. The supervisor of elections for Palm Beach County, Arthur Anderson, is named as the defendant.
Jim Hurley, an attorney for Rabinowitz, said the lawsuit was the first of its kind in the U.S.
It is not uncommon for polling places across the country to be located in houses of worship.
"The use of this church as the polling place in this case, with all of its outward and obvious manifestations of a particular religion, has the primary effect of advancing a particular religion over other religious and nonreligious positions," the suit claims.
"Mr. Rabinowitz and I believe very sincerely that voting in churches is, in and of itself, a breach of the constitutional requirement of church and state," said Hurley.
Rabinowitz’s case is being funded by the Appignani Humanist Legal Center, which is part of the American Humanist Association. Humanists believe in leading ethical lives, but without religious doctrine or the worship of God.
"The civil rights of Mr. Rabinowitz, who is not a Catholic or Christian, were violated by forcing him to vote in a Christian Church setting," Hurley was quoted as saying in the Palm Beach Post. "It's improper to use churches for polling places, just as it would be improper to use mosques and synagogues."