More Examples of Christian Right Voter's Guides Found Inside Pennsylvania Polling Locations
Rachel Tabachnick printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Thu Nov 08, 2012 at 02:16:38 PM EST
Following are more examples of Christian Right voter guides found by voters inside Pennsylvania polling locations. State law requires that campaign signs, individuals campaigning and distribution of electioneering media must be kept at least ten feet outside the entrance of the polling place. This post includes voter's guides from Ralph Reed's Faith and Freedom Coalition and Life PAC of Southwestern Pennsylvania.  Photos follow.
On Election Day I posted an article documenting Christian Right voter guides at  Pennsylvania polling locations.  In that example, the voter guide was produced by the Pennsylvania Family Council, an affiliate of Focus on the Family and Family Research Council.  Voters also reported voter's guides from Life PAC and Ralph Reed's Faith and Freedom Coalition displayed at polling locations in the Pittsburgh area. The Faith and Freedom Coalition voter's guide also indicates sponsorship by the Pennsylvania Pastors Network, a project of Let Freedom Ring.

Photobucket

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The Faith and Freedom Coalition advertised a get-out-the-vote effort with the lofty goal of registering two million Christian conservative voters and turning out eight million already registered voters who did not vote in the 2008 presidential election.  After attending the Values Voters Summit, Talk2action's Frederick Clarkson reported on this and related get-out-the-vote efforts. (See the last section of Clarkson's Public Eye article on Samuel Rodriguez.)

Pennsylvania Pastors Network and Let Freedom Ring

Pennsylvania Pastors Network (PPN) is a project of Let Freedom Ring, a 501(c)(4), founded in 2004 and initially chaired by John "Jack" Templeton, Jr., president of the Templeton Foundation and son of the foundation's founder, the late Sir John Templeton. Jack Templeton is one of the largest funders of the GOP in Pennsylvania. In 2011, Templeton contributed $790,000 of the $3.9 million dollar total income of the Republican State Committee of Pennsylvania. This does not include his $56,000 to Pennsylvania's House Republican Campaign Committee or contributions to individual candidates, including $40,000 in a county commissioner's race and $31,000 to a candidate for Commonwealth Court in 2011.

Templeton was a major donors to the SuperPAC that supported Rick Santorum's presidential bid in 2012. In past elections he contributed to Swiftboat Veterans for Truth and was the second largest individual donor to California's Proposition Eight, according to the LA Times, which also reported that Templeton donated $800,000 of a $1.3 million dollar ad purchase for Let Freedom Ring in 2008.  The ad in support of pro-McCain, anti-Obama ad aired in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Nevada, Colorado, and Virginia.  

In 2005 Let Freedom Ring introduced the "Templeton Curve," named for their chairman Jack Templeton. Many conservative media outlets republished the graphics promoting Paul Ryan's privatization plan for Social Security, the Ryan-Sununu Social Security Personal Savings Guarantee and Prosperity Act of 2005  

Let Freedom Ring has also sponsored projects promoting a fence/barrier on the southern border of the U.S. and a "Jihadist awareness website."

The Pennsylvania Pastors Network is currently led by Sam Rohrer, a nine-term Pennsylvania state representative and former state director of Americans for Prosperity. Rohrer is one of the the state's vocal supporters for "private school choice" programs and an opponent of the teaching of evolution in public schools.  Rohrer was quoted in the Philadelphia Inquirer in 2000, stating,

"Evolution is a religious tent- it's a tenet of secular humanism, and of Marxism and Communism."

Life PAC of Southwestern Pennsylvania Voter Guide

Another voter's guide reported at a polling location was produced by Life PAC.  This was an unsophisticated and homemade-looking production and focused only on abortion. It listed anti-abortion candidates in all slots on the ballot from president to the state senate and house races.

Handwritten on the guide are the words,

"Return to me America & I will heal you.  Love, God"
followed by
"Abortion is an intrinsic evil.  Support for an intrinsic evil disqualifies a candidate for president."
PhotobucketLifePAC is directed toward Catholic voters and describes the five nonnegotiable issues as:
-abortion
-euthanasia
-fetal stem cell research
-human cloning
-homosexual marriage

LifePAC's website describe it as a Political Action Committee organized in 1980.

Is this Legal?

Pennsylvania law requires that electioneering individuals and media be at least ten feet from the polling place entrance.  These examples of Christian Right voter guides reported by voters were displayed inside churches used as polling locations. An example in another state was documented by a Virginia voter on video and can be viewed at Raw Story.  In Virginia it is illegal to exhibit campaign material or attempt to influence voters within 40 feet of a polling location.

Given the extent of incidents of voter harassment and suppression that took place on election day, it's not likely that there will be ramifications for the display of voter guides. However, voters should document and report them in order that those responsible for oversight will be aware of the violations and, at the very least, warn the polling locations to comply with the laws during future elections.

Regardless of whether these violations will ever be addressed by authorities, it is important to educate the public about what appears to be a common occurrence of some churches taking advantage of the opportunity to influence voters while they are entering the polling place or waiting in line.

Other issues, unrelated to the polling location, are the laws about nonprofits and political activity.  The PA Family Council, Faith and Freedom Coalition, and Let Freedom Ring are 501(c)4s. The Citizens United decision has gutted some of the restrictions regarding electioneering activities of this category of nonprofits, which were already very complex and left substantial gray area.

The PA Family Council voter's guide featured in my previous article, includes the statement,

"Churches and other nonprofit organizations may distribute nonpartisan, unbiased, voter education material without jeopardizing their tax-exempt status.  This publication has undergone extensive legal review to ensure that it complies with the rules for 501c(3) organizations."
That does not negate the fact that churches or other venues may be violating the law by providing the guides to voters on Election Day inside the polling location.

The PA Family Council guide used survey responses from candidates on a list of issues. Most Democratic candidates, as well as several Republicans, refused to respond, and for obvious reasons since these are organizations working against their election. Other voter guides, like the Faith & Freedom Coalition, apparently fill in the blanks on the candidates positions themselves.  For instance, it includes that President Obama would "Cut Medicare $716 Billion" and that he supports "Taxpayer-Funded Abortion."

A CNN Belief Blog by Rev. Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation for Church and State, drew more than one thousand comments on the issue of using churches as polling places and a follow-up post by Dan Gilgoff.  Lynn stated,

"All of this church-based political activity makes me uneasy about casting ballots in houses of worship, especially those festooned with political signs. And yet today, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of churches around the country are being pressed into service as polling places."

Pennsylvania allows electioneering up to ten feet outside of the polling place, which means that many voters walk into the polls with media in hand from political parties, issue-based activists, and candidates. In these cases, it is clear to the voter that this media is intended to influence their vote. The Christian Right voter's guides are deceptive since they are being presented as "impartial" and "non-partisan" guides, supposedly to aid the voter, and are displayed  inside the polling location.  




Display:

as citizens and voters to speak up about these issues at the time they are occurring. The chief election officer of the precinct should be informed and asked to have the offending material removed when it is in violation of the state's election laws. Any citizen can make this request, just as any citizen can phone a higher-up official or government hotline to escalate the complaint.

Where I served as a voter advocate last Tuesday, both Republicans and Democrats were handing out sample ballots -- from outside the prohibited area. Inside, most voters I saw carried one of each.

I was moved by the experiences of the day, which I detailed in the Daily KOS blogs under the title "America's Beating Heart" by GrannyRedBird. [with apologies - I can't seem to the the hyperlink html right]



by Khalila RedBird on Thu Nov 08, 2012 at 10:22:59 PM EST


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