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Votes

Letter: Sermonizing At Poll Site?

To the Editor:

I am writing to express my outrage at the voting atmosphere this morning [Nov. 6] at my polling place in Alexandria at the Blessed Sacrament Church on 1427 W. Braddock Road. I understand the use of houses of worship as voting places as they are often centrally located with room for a large number of people to gather. What I did not understand this morning, and what offended me and should offend all Americans, was why a Catholic sermon was permitted to play over the intercom system of the polling place while we waited in line to cast our ballots. This is a violation of the basic Constitutional right of separation of Church and State.

There are lines outside of the polling place that supporters of candidates cannot pass so that voters are not harassed while they cast their ballots. I do not know why this same rule did not apply to the priest of Blessed Sacrament. I complained at the polling site and was told something along the lines of, "the church let us line everyone up inside so you don't have to be out in the cold, and the intercom is their right." I do not know why the church felt that opening their doors was an excuse to preach to voters, but, as I told the staff at the polling center, I would rather freeze to death than have my rights and the Constitutional right of separation of Church and State violated in this way.

I have since complained to the City of Alexandria and the State Board of Election. I write now to the Alexandria Gazette in an effort to enlighten your readership of this gross offense in the hope that the Virginia State Board of Elections will work to ensure that no voter has to listen to a religious sermon while they cast a secular ballot.

Abby Downs

Alexandria