Polling station at Mass. Catholic church won’t cover crucifix

Polling station at Mass. Catholic church won’t cover crucifix

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A Catholic church to be used as a polling site for the Massachusetts presidential primary will not have to cover up or remove its crucifixes or other religious images, countering an earlier decision that could have required such action, the Telegram and Gazette reports.

Our Lady of Good Counsel was chosen as a primary polling site after a municipal building was condemned because of structural problems.  “The church provided a safe and reasonable alternative to the voters of West Boylston, and we thank them for stepping up and assisting the town in our hour of need,” town administrator Leon A. Gaumond said, according to the Telegram and Gazette.

The town had initially decided to keep religious symbols out of public view during the election after Ronal C. Madnick, director of the Worcester chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, wrote to Gaumond that a resident had complained about the location of the polling place.

Madnick told the Telegram and Gazette that while inspecting the church he saw a large crucifix in the church’s community room.  He believed this might cause some voters to “feel uncomfortable voting in such a location,” suggesting that town officials consider removing or covering up such religious symbols.

On Saturday Gaumond was notified by the secretary of state’s office that there was no requirement banning religious items at voting sites.  He said that any resident objecting to voting at the church can arrange alternative voting methods, such as absentee balloting, with the town clerk.

Worcester City Clerk David J. Rushford called “preposterous” any concerns about using religious facilities as voting places.  Rushford noted that nine churches and synagogues in Worcester were used as polling places.

Madnick said he was not surprised by the state’s advice, but said the citizen had had a legitimate complaint.  The resident “had his voice heard through us,” he said to the Telegram and Gazette.

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