NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. (WFLA) – A sign placed outside a church that is serving as a polling place in Pasco County is ruffling a lot of feathers this Election Day.
The Grace of God Church in New Port Richey serves as the polling place for Precinct 034 in Pasco County.
On Tuesday morning, just hours after polls opened, the church posted a picture of a sign on its Facebook page that reads, “Don’t vote for Democrats on Tuesday and sing ‘Oh how I love Jesus’ on Sunday.”
Facebook users immediately jumped into the comments to call the sign disgraceful and inappropriate. People also accused the church of violating election law and tax code.
Several people tagged Pasco County election officials and the ACLU of Florida. Others posted contact information for the Supervisor of Elections and for the Florida Voter Protection Hotline.
Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley commented on the post saying he spoke with the pastor who put the sign up. Corley says the pastor told him he would not take the sign down.
“Regarding the above referenced sign, per Florida law, our authority ends at 100 feet from the entrance of the polling place. Beyond the 100 feet, I have no legal authority and in this case, it’s private property,” Corley explained in his comment.
He says his office was made aware of the sign earlier Tuesday and had his staff contact the church.
“Upon hearing that the sign was featured on the Church’s Facebook page, I contacted the pastor in the hopes he would remove the overtly political sign as we were getting a tremendous amount of complaints from voters,” Corley said. “The Pastor relayed that ‘he’ personally placed the sign there but the church supports him. I relayed that it was inappropriate for the owner of a facility used as an election day polling place to put an overtly political sign out. He indicated he would not take the sign down.”
“I told him that his decision would result in us not using his facility as a polling place and it would cost the taxpayer money to notify the voters of a change of a polling place and legal advertising,” Corley added. “Also, an inconvenience to those voters in that precinct who now must go to a new polling place in the future.”
The official ACLU of Florida Facebook page also commented on the post, calling the sign voter intimidation.
The person who runs the church Facebook page has posted several comments and replied to others.
“God’s dedicated property does not change on the first Tuesday of Nov every two years,” one comment said. “It is in the same vain [sic] as our marques [sic] that is used to share a message. I’ll risk losing our 501-3C and honor our sacred rights to free speech.”