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NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. (CBS Local) — A church in central Florida will no longer be used as a polling place after the pastor posted a sign in the yard on Election Day that read “Don’t vote for Democrats on Tuesday and sing ‘Oh how I love Jesus’ on Sunday.”
A photo of the sign, which was clearly visible by voters arriving at the Grace of God Church in New Port Richey to cast their ballot, was also posted to the church’s Facebook page with the caption, “Sign says it all.” The post has since been deleted.
Pastor Al Carlisle insisted he was simply expressing his First Amendment rights of free expression by posting the sign. But critics claimed he was breaking the law.
It turns out that the sign was technically legal because it was outside the 100-foot perimeter where campaigning is banned at polling locations.
Still, Pasco County Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley said he asked Carlisle “politely” to remove the sign but instead the pastor “began to lecture” him.
Corley told the Tampa Bay Times that Pasco County will not use the Grace of God Church as a polling place again after receiving a flood of complaints.
“I resent it when we’re trying to run an election,” Corley said.
“That doesn’t make sense — do you mean that I lose my rights as a citizen if I become a pastor and a proprietor of a polling place I lose my right to voice an opinion,” Carlisle asked WFLA.
“Being a polling place is not a license to make political statements as the host,” Corley said.
A daylong debate over the sign abruptly ended when an angry woman yanked it out of the ground, tossed it in her truck and drove away.