A county elections official revoked a Florida church’s polling license to hold future elections at its location over a sign its pastor posted on the property meant to dissuade Christians from voting for Democrats.
Pasco County Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley withdrew the status of Grace of God Church as a polling station for the next general election because of a sign posted discouraging congregants and other Christians from casting their ballots for Democratic candidates.
Beware of hypocrisy before God
Grace of God Church Pastor Al Carlisle – whose church is located in New Port Richey, Florida – posted a sign on his church’s property warning Christians on Election Day about acting hypocritically by voting for ungodly Democrats who support unbiblical principles on Tuesday … only to show up at church the following week praising God.
"Don't vote for Democrats on Tuesday and sing, 'Oh, how I love Jesus' on Sunday," Carlisle’s posted sign read, according to The Christian Post (CP).
Immediate action was not taken by the head voting official of Pasco County when he heard about the sign, but when he discovered that the church’s pastor posted the controversial message on Election Day, he quickly moved to disqualify Grace of God Church from serving as a polling station in the future.
“Corley … [said] that that he initially believed that the sign was placed on the church grounds by an individual not affiliated with the church,” CP’s Samuel Smith recounted. “But Corley then called Carlisle and was told that Carlisle was indeed the one who put up the sign.”
The voting official became upset that Carlisle left the sign up the day voters were casting their ballots.
"I'm frustrated and, quite frankly, a little resentful because – as I explained to the pastor – any other day … any other day you could put that sign up," Corley told Bay News 9. "You could put 100 up, but when you use it as a polling place, that's just not the way you operate."
Evening the playing field …
However, the staunch Florida pastor remains confident that the posting and placement of his sign was not in violation of any county code or regulation.
“Carlisle told the [local] news outlet that he posted the sign in response to the political signs planted on church property on Election Day,” Smith noted. “Carlisle's sign was located more than the required 100 feet from the entrance of the polling location – therefore, Carlisle could legally refuse demands by the election workers for the sign to be removed.”
The church’s leader felt moved to put in a word for God amidst all of the signs on his church’s property promoting ungodly candidates who champion unbiblical policies.
"I get all these political ads up and down my driveway," Carlisle told channel 9. "I said, 'Well, I don't know if God's really excited about all this,' and 'How can I use this opportunity to be a witness – o share the truth of God's Word?'"
According to the Florida pastor, his intention was not to keep registered voters from casting their ballots for Democratic candidates – or to pressure them into voting for Republican candidates supporting biblical or conservative GOP-backed issues and initiatives.
"It's directed at those who profess to be Christians," Carlisle added. "There is a line drawn in the sand by Jesus that we ought not cross."
Taking a stand for biblical morality
Even though Carlisle insisted that he did not specifically push voters to cast their ballots for particular candidates, he impressed that he takes a side against the Democratic Party’s platform when it comes to social and moral issues such as abortion, LGBT privileges and illegal immigration.
“I’m not saying, ‘Don’t [vote Democrat],’” Carlisle emphasized, according to The Tampa Bay Times. “I’m saying don’t be a contradiction.”
The pastor also explained his biblical reasoning for standing by President Donald Trump’s tough-on-immigration policies.
“He also criticized Democrats in favor of open borders, saying they oppose Christian values in the Bible, which he said explains that God established borders for the Garden of Eden,” The Tampa Bay Times’ Zachary T. Sampson and Justin Trombly noted. “If people are offended by his sign, Carlisle said, they have a problem – not him. And their problem is with God.”
Carlisle argued that Christians at churches have the same constitutional free speech rights as other citizens in other venues.
"Just because I pastor a church doesn't mean I give up my right as a citizen to have an opinion – to have freedoms," Carlisle insisted, according to Bay News 9. "I can enjoy the First Amendment freedoms just like anybody else."
In addition to the local news media giving extensive coverage to his sign, Carlisle reportedly drew more attention to his voting message by posting a photo of the sign on his church’s Facebook page.
It was noted by a local paper, however, that dozens of passersby did not receive Carlisle’s message well.
“Corley’s office received about 75 complaints on the phone by 2 p.m. as word of the sign spread,” Sampson and Trombley informed. “Corley said the sign is ‘not appropriate,’ but there’s nothing he can do because it’s on private property – just outside the 100-foot perimeter where campaigning is banned around polling locations.”
Carlisle attempted to explain his legal right to post his sign where he did to the elections official, but Corley was not open to discussion.
“He began to lecture me,” Corley recounted from his conversation with Carlisle, according to the Tampa daily. “I explained to him it’s not a religious discussion. I asked him politely if he’d remove it.”
Corley ended up losing his argument that Carlisle had to remove the sign, but the government official retaliated by revoking the church’s license to be a polling station for the next election.
“After checking with his office’s general counsel and the state Division of Elections – the supervisor said – he was resigned to the fact that there was nothing he could do to get rid of the sign,” Sampson and Trombley recounted.
Corley made it clear that no ballots will be cast at Carlisle’s church in the future under his watch, and noted that he must now send out new information cards and take out legal notices in the newspaper – saying that taxpayers will foot the bill for between $3,000 and $5,000 for the change in venues.
“Being a polling place is not a license to make political statements as the host,” Corley contended, according to the Times.
But the unwavering pastor is not bothered that his church will not serve as a voting station in 2019.
“[The church property is dedicated to God, and] it doesn’t revert back to the county just because there’s an election here,” Carlisle argued, according to the Tampa paper.