The Law Applies to Me, But Not to Thee?

Liberty Institute/Texas Values, the lawsuit-happy Texas affiliate of Focus on the Family, has now decided to harass election workers and officials in Williamson County just north of Austin. The workers’ offense? Enforcing state laws barring electioneering and trying to influence voters within 100 feet of a polling location.

The religious-right group claims that a woman’s rights to vote and to free speech as well as her freedom of religion were violated last week when poll workers told her that a T-shirt she wore urging people to “Vote the Bible” was not permitted in the early polling location at Taylor City Hall. According to a complaint Liberty Institute/Texas Values has filed with Williamson County’s election administrator, poll workers told the voter that she would either have to conceal the “Vote the Bible” message or wear a different shirt before being allowed to cast a ballot. One of the poll workers even offered to lend the voter a jacket to wear over her T-shirt — an offer the voter accepted.

Nonetheless, the voter suffered from “embarrassment, humiliation, intimidation and fear of retaliation,” Liberty Institute/Texas Values bizarrely charges. The group also claims that the state law against electioneering at a polling location doesn’t apply in this case because it “only prohibits supporting or opposing a candidate, measure or political party, so ‘Vote the Bible’ doesn’t fit within this definition.”

Section 61.003 of the Texas Election Code does, in fact, prohibit a person from electioneering “for or against any candidate, measure, or political party” within 100 feet of the door to a polling location. Section 61.008 of the Election Code also would seem to apply here:

“UNLAWFULLY INFLUENCING VOTER. (a) A person commits an offense if the person indicates to a voter in a polling place by word, sign, or gesture how the person desires the voter to vote or not vote.”

It seems evident that the woman wearing her “Vote the Bible” T-shirt did, indeed, seek to indicate “by word, sign or gesture” how voters should “vote or not vote.”

Liberty Institute/Texas Values charges that poll workers told the woman that some voters might find her T-shirt “offensive.” Of course, we don’t know what poll workers actually told the woman — we have only the word of the lawyers at Liberty Institute/Texas Values at this point. But, yes, we can imagine that some voters might be offended to see someone trying to influence their vote at a polling location in apparent violation of the law. That would also likely be true if they saw people inside a polling location wearing T-shirts calling on others to “Vote against the rich,” “Vote for the middle class,” “Vote more taxes” or “Vote Big Oil.” Should religious messages be exempt from the law? What if groups decided to fill a polling location with signs calling on people to “Vote the Quran” or telling them that “Jesus Would Vote for Universal Health Insurance”? Would Liberty Institute/Texas Values see a problem with that?

The truth is that the litigation addicts and bullies at Liberty Institute/Texas Values often send out their lawyers to sue school districts and other public entities in attempts to stir up hysteria about supposed anti-Christian discrimination in a nation where nearly 80 percent of the population itself is Christian.

Now the group is targeting officials in Williamson County, where — by the way — Republican Gov. Rick Perry bested his Democratic opponent Bill White by more than 20 percentage points in 2010 and John McCain won by 13 percent over Barack Obama in 2008. (In short, Williamson County is hardly a hotbed of anti-Christian bigotry.)

Liberty Institute/Texas Values is demanding that Williamson County officials issue a public statement supporting a right to wear a “Vote the Bible” T-shirt in a polling location, circulate a memo to county employees affirming the same thing, and issue an apology to the woman in question for causing her “embarrassment, humiliation, and intimidation.” Otherwise, the group threatens to file a formal complaint with the Texas Secretary of State. It’s easy to see the next step being a courtroom.

Well, we have a better idea — the bullies at Liberty Institute/Texas Values should apologize to Williamson County taxpayers for wasting their time and tax dollars with a self-serving political complaint. Meanwhile, everyone should treat their fellow citizens with common courtesy and obey state laws by not electioneering and trying to influence their decisions inside a polling place.

10 thoughts on “The Law Applies to Me, But Not to Thee?

  1. When are we going to get enough of these “pseudo-Christians”? I am so beyond fed up with the Liberty Institute and their agenda of theocratic hate. When we are willing to stand up to these bullies, then perhaps our country can get on the right track again.

  2. Our currency say’s “In God We Trust”. Do we really have a candidate that does not support the bible?

  3. Unfortunately, they are merely litigating this sort of nonsense in Texas. Here in Tennessee, this screwball stuff is actually getting legislated or attempting to get legislated. If anyone is interested in a “classic” Charles post, you are welcome to visit my blog and see my campaign endorsement against the GOP Knuckleheads in the Tennessee General Assembly. The URL is:

    Keep up the good work TFN. How are things shaping up poll wise in the Texas SBOE election? Is it looking good, bad, or indifferent?

  4. I’m not sure that “vote the Bible” is actually “electioneering” as defined by statute. I “vote the Bible” every election and I am unabashedly progressive in fact that is WHY I’m progressive because I “vote the Bible”.

    Unfortunately, the words “vote the Bible” are a “dog whistle” to conservatives, but they don’t have to be, nor should they be. Religion isn’t owned by the conservatives just twisted by them.

  5. It occurred to me – did the woman really want people to “vote the Bible” or to “vote the Book of Mormon?” Perhaps she and the Liberty Institute need to get their story together before they proceed. We don’t want folks getting confused…..

  6. Ye Gods, is this really worth arguing about? Frankly, I think there’s a good argument that all these anti-electioneering laws are unconstitutional, if well intentioned. But since it is still the law at this point the poll workers were exactly right.

  7. As a former election judge, I approve and applaud the election people who told that lady to leave. All the woman had to do was either cover her top or change it and come back; her right to vote was never challenged. The fact that she was trying to break the law (ignorance of the law is not an excuse) by wearing an absurd slogan (the bible is not running for any office I know of). “Vote the Bible” is a clear pitch for people to vote for the whaco far right wing candidate who feel that rape is okay, in fact a “gift from God.”

    A reminder for those who have forgotten, the United States of America is a SECULAR REPUBLIC, not a “Christian Country.” The founders of this country were not 100% Christians, many of them were simply Deists, not Christians.

    Religion is not supposed to have any place in our elections. Read the Constitution of the United States if you do not believe that. Article VI, Paragraph 3 says, in part, “…but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

    It sickens me that religious bigots still attempt to vote for some people because of their religious beliefs. This is a country of laws, it is not a country of any given religion. Yes, the First Amendment gives us the right to free speech, but there is a time and a place to have free speech. Where it is prohibited for a good reason, the laws must be followed.

    Keep our country SECULAR…it is NOT a four-letter word.