NEW PORT RICHEY, FL — A New Port Richey church has lost its status as a Pasco County polling place due to a controversial sign placed on the property on election day.
Pasco County Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley said his office was bombarded with angry phone calls Tuesday from residents who showed up at Grace of God Church, 5725 Rowan Road, and were greeted by a hand-written sign that read, "Don't vote for Democrats on Tuesday and sing, 'Oh, how I love Jesus' on Sunday."
“We’re not talking a handful of calls – we’re talking in the hundreds, several hundred," said Corley.
Frustrated at having to put poll workers with important questions on hold while his staff fielded calls from voters offended by the sign, Corley called the church's pastor, the Rev. Al Carlisle.
Corley said it's not uncommon for individuals to place controversial signs at polling places without the knowledge of those in charge. At the very least, he expected a promise to remove the offensive sign right away.
Instead, Carlisle admitted that he had put up the sign and had no intention of taking it down.
"You literally could’ve blown me over with a feather at that point,” Corley said.
While there is no law against putting up an offensive sign at a polling place provided it is on private property and outside of the 100-foot perimeter where campaigning is banned at polling locations, Corley said the sign was inappropriate and unduly upset voters on a day when he just didn't have time to deal with their complaints.
"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.
Carlisle wasn't impressed.
"Well, then, the election officials need to find another venue for polling," he said. "I will not compromise my convictions. Just because I’m a pastor of a church doesn’t mean I give up my rights to have opinions, to have freedoms."
He said he saw this as an opportunity to spread God's message.
"My sign wasn’t directed at any one person," he said. "It was directed at a platform -- of abortions, same-sex marriage, open borders. There is a line drawn in the sand by Jesus that we ought not cross.”
In response, resident David Sebba has organized a "peaceful protest" on the public road at the entrance to the church from 9 to 10 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 11.
"This type of rhetoric, especially at a polling location, is a sad indictment on where we are as a society and country," said Sebba in his Facebook invitation. "Let's stand together and refuse to accept this."
Image via Grace of God Church
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