September 2007 Church & State | AU Bulletin

A federal judge has tossed out a Florida man’s lawsuit over the use of churches as polling places.

In late July, U.S. District Judge Donald L. Middlebrooks ruled that Jerry Rabinowitz, a Palm Beach resident, did not have a legal right (“standing”) to challenge the placement of polling sites in churches.

The judge also ruled that Rabinowitz, who was represented by lawyers with the American Humanist Association, did not have a First Amendment claim. Emmanuel Catholic Church, where he voted in the 2006 general election and a 2007 municipal election, was adorned with religious symbols and displays. A banner disparaging reproductive rights was displayed outside the entrance to the polling place during the 2006 general election, along with a sign that read “Each of us matters to God.”

Middlebrooks wrote in Rabinowitz v. Anderson, “This is not a case where a governmental actor actively placed a religious icon or message at a voting location, or on another piece of government property.”

The judge added that Palm Beach County officials “were at the Church to carry out a secular election; the undisputed evidence shows that they had no religious purpose or motive, and there was no excessive entanglement.”

In a press statement regarding the ruling, Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association, said “the struggle isn’t over. We haven’t ruled out an appeal in this case and will launch this case in another jurisdiction, challenging a similar abuse. We have members all over the United States who have answered our call to report these abuses or be plaintiffs.”