Massachusetts lawyer challenges use of churches as polling places

Posted: Friday, April 04, 2003

FRAMINGHAM, Mass. (AP) A Jewish lawyer said he will sue Framingham in federal court because it holds elections in religious buildings, which he considers a violation of church-state separation.

Robert Meltzer said he tried to persuade local officials to eliminate the polling stations at Wesley United Methodist Church, where he votes, and a Catholic school. The town said the practice is widely accepted and the church is the most convenient site.

Meltzer said Judaism prohibits Jews from entering Christian churches for fear of idolatry'' and worshipping false divinities.'' Rabbi Tsvi Blanchard of the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership acknowledged that tradition, but said few Jews observe it.

Meltzer said a large cross above his voting booth meant that in order to vote, you basically had to bow before the cross... I was sick for a week.''

Sixty Massachusetts communities, including Boston, use houses of worship for balloting, according to the secretary of state's office, which said the law is silent on the subject.''

The Methodist church provided polling space free of charge after the 2000 census required an added precinct.

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