Church Flies Black Lives Matter Banners, Loses Its Polling Place Designation

Three months before the 2018 midterm elections, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Fresno, a congregation of about 450 in an affluent and mostly white part of town in California, flew Black Lives Matter banners in solidarity with people of color against police violence.

But some white people in Fresno just could not handle it.

An anonymous voter wanted to know “why it was okay to have a Black Lives Matter (a known domestic terrorist group) sign in front of our polling place,” according to court documents, according to The Washington Post.

The voter filed the complaint with the county clerk and registrar of voters in the city.

The county clerk, Brandi Orth, also white, decided she agreed with the voter and that it wasn’t okay for the church to fly the banners. In August, the county official asked the church, which has been a polling place since 2016, to take down the banners.

But the Unitarian Universalist Church of Fresno said no way. The signs were 200 feet way from the church building itself – beyond the 100-foot radius inside which state law prohibits “electioneering.”

Even though the church wasn’t breaking any laws, Orth dropped the house of worship as a polling location for the fall election.

But the church and the ACLU are not going to let it slide. The church and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is suing the county clerk in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California. According to the lawsuit, the ACLU says stripping the church of its polling designation endangers its constitutionally protected speech.

The people of Fresno have reason to fly the banners – the rate of black infant mortality in Fresno County is nearly triple the county’s overall figure and is similar to rates in parts of the developing world, as the civil liberties group notes in the legal filing, according to The Post.

“I said, ‘You’re looking at that though a white primacy culture lens,’” the minister of the church told The Post. “You’ve determined that to make this safe for one or two or three racist white people, it’s necessary to take a place that was safe for people of color to vote — and snatch that away.”

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