FRAMINGHAM, Mass. -- A Jewish lawyer and newspaper columnist who voted in a Methodist church that serves as his precinct's polling place, has sparked a heated debate over holding elections in religious buildings, which he says violates the separation of church and state.
Robert Meltzer, 37, of Framingham, said he will sue the town this week in federal court. He said he has tried to persuade local officials to move polling stations from the church and a Catholic school to secular sites. But Selectmen have refused, arguing that the practice is widely accepted and that the church is the most convenient site for the polls.
Meltzer said he voted in the Wesley United Methodist Church last year, standing in a voting booth directly below a large cross. Afterward, he vowed never to return, and has since voted by absentee ballot.
"In order to vote, you basically had to bow before the cross," Meltzer said. "I was sick for a week."
Voting in churches has long been a common practice throughout New England, and is permissible under state law. Some 60 communities -- including Boston, Cambridge, Lowell, Somerville and Worcester, Mass., -- hold elections in houses of worship, according to the secretary of state's office.
"The law is silent on the subject," said Brian McNiff, a spokesman for the office.
"Asking a feminist to vote in a Roman Catholic Church is like asking a black man to vote in a KKK hall. You are being told to go somewhere that espouses beliefs that are antithetical to your own."
Meltzer's precinct voted at a public school until the 2000 census required Framingham to create a new precinct. Wesley United Methodist Church volunteered its space free of charge, Framingham Town Clerk Valerie Mulvey said.
"It's a find for the town," she told The Boston Globe. "Of course, we looked at schools first, but this fell into our laps. We'd take a temple too, if they'd take us."
Meltzer said Hebrew scripture prohibits Jews from entering churches for fear of "idolatry," and "worshipping false divinities."
Rabbi Tsvi Blanchard of the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, acknowledged that scripture forbids Jews from entering churches, but added that few Jews adhere to it. http://www.thebostonchannel.com/news/2074787/detail.html