Local Clergy To Florida Pol: Removing Mosque As Polling Site ‘Feeds’ Hatred

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A coalition of some 22 rabbis and pastors wrote to a Palm Beach County, Florida elections official on Monday urging her to reinstate a Boca Raton mosque as a polling site or risk feeding “the fears and hatred in our world.”

“At this moment in our challenging history, we have an opportunity to be a force for mutual understanding and peace. You can do this and receive the support of Rabbis, Ministers and Priests in our community,” clergy from St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church, Temple Beth El of Boca Raton, First United Methodist Church, and several other local religious institutions wrote in a letter to Palm Beach County Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher.

Bucher initially invited the Islamic Center of Boca Raton to serve as a polling site for the 2016 elections in April. After receiving complaints from anonymous residents displeased that they would have to vote at a mosque, she rescinded the invitation in early July, to the disappointment of the center’s leadership.

The Florida Family Association, a conservative Christian group, praised Bucher’s decision, while Bucher’s Republican opponent in her re-election race, Christine Spain, admonished the elections supervisor for inviting the mosque to serve as a polling place to begin with. Both the Florida Family Association and Spain argued that it was inappropriate to hold elections at the site in the wake of recent terrorist attacks in Orlando and Nice, France.

Local clergy disagreed, telling Bucher that the center was a “model of positive relations in our community” and that its leaders had invited them to attend Ramadan dinners and visited them at their own houses of worship.

“It is committed to protecting, promoting and living out the principles upon which our nation was founded: tolerance, pluralism, religious freedom and diversity,” they wrote.

The group said their congregants also wanted the center to be reinstated as a polling site, asking Bucher not to “allow the negative voices of a few to drown out the positive voices of Boca Raton’s interfaith community.”

As they pointed out, Florida voters are allowed to request a mail-in ballot for any reason and may cast their ballots from home.

Leaders at Temple Beth El sent their own letter to Bucher on Friday, saying they understand the threat posed by religious persecution as members of “a religious minority in this country.”

“This decision appears to us to be nothing more than responding to the basest elements in our society and gives undue credence to the notion that Muslims are unfit to be Americans or participate in American society, and we worry that giving in to these presumptions would serve to confirm them in a very public manner,” Beth El leaders wrote in a letter provided to TPM.

Read the full letter below:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Allegra Kirkland is a New York-based reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked on The Nation’s web team and as the associate managing editor for AlterNet. Follow her on Twitter @allegrakirkland.

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