* Religious groups and their leaders are allowed to make public stands on political, moral and cultural issues, but are not supposed to endorse, by name, specific candidates.
* A small number of very conservative pastors have, in recent years, attempted to fight church-state laws on that front and have created quite a few headlines while doing so.
* Following long-standing traditions, many African-American church leaders continue to either openly endorse candidates — President Barack Obama in particular, in the past two elections — and continue to make very few headlines while doing so.
The news team at The American Independent recently produced a story on a related topic that forced members of this non-profit operation to walk into this minefield. GetReligion readers will be shocked, shocked, to know that they produced a story that contained lots of solid information on the issue of whether churches should serve as polling places, but managed to focus only on possible abuses on only one side of the religious-and-political spectrum.
Thus, readers are told:
On Election Day in South Saint Paul, residents showed up at St. John Vianney Catholic Church to vote and were greeted with a banner outside the polling place entrance that read, “Strengthen Marriage, Don’t Redefine It.”
Minnesota was voting on a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, and the Catholic Church had been the most vocal proponent of the ballot measure. At a separate West St. Paul polling place, a voter noticed a prayer, written by Twin Cities Archbishop John Nienstedt, that urged Catholics to defend God’s plan for marriage — between one man and one woman.
Photos of the signs were shared widely on Facebook and Twitter.
In Minnesota, campaign materials must be 100 feet or more away from a building that is serving as a polling place. In both instances, the state statute was violated. The Archdiocese called the incidents an oversight, and the signs came down by midday on Election Day.
Incidents like these have caused advocates for separation of church and state to urge elections officials to end the practice of using churches as polling places, or at the very least, beef up enforcement of polling place rules when churches are used.
The article also contains valid information about polling-place tensions linked to a same-sex marriage vote in North Carolina. Churches in Colorado, Missouri and Ohio also left a few small pro-life materials in place, as well. In one Virginia church, conservative voting guides were not removed from church distribution points close to the polls.
Any church-state expert would say that this basic issue — should churches, on the left or right, be used as polling places — is a valid hook for news coverage. There are some horror stories out there.
But here, once again, is the key: There are horror stories on the political left and on the political right.
Why did this report, produced by a non-profit news source, only focus on complaints coming from the political and cultural left, targeting the religious and cultural right?
Just asking. Really strange, sadly, or maybe not.