A church in Florida has been stripped of its ability to serve as a polling location in future elections because of a controversial sign its pastor placed on its premises on Tuesday.
Brian Corley, the supervisor of elections in Pasco County, has revoked the polling place status of Grace of God Church in New Port Richey after Pastor Al Carlisle posted a sign on Election Day criticizing Christian voters who vote for Democrats.
The sign read: "Don't vote for Democrats on Tuesday and sing, 'Oh, how I love Jesus' on Sunday."
Corley told BayNews9 that that he initially believed that the sign was placed on the church grounds by an individual not affiliated with the church. But Corley then called Carlisle and was told that Carlisle was indeed the one who put up the sign.
"I'm frustrated and, quite frankly, a little resentful because, as I explained to the pastor, any other day, any other day you could put that sign up," Corley explained. "You could put 100 up. But when you use it as a polling place, that's just not the way you operate."
Carlisle told the news outlet that he posted the sign in response to the political signs planted on church property on Election Day. Carlisle's sign was located more than the required 100 feet from the entrance of the polling location. Therefore, Carlisle could legally refuse demands by the election workers for the sign to be removed.
"I get all these political ads up and down my driveway," Carlisle explained. "I said, 'Well, I don't know if God's really excited about all this,' and 'How can I use this opportunity to be a witness, to share the truth of God's word?'"
Carlisle said he wasn't trying to dissuade people from voting Democrat or trying to encourage them to vote Republican.
"It's directed at those who profess to be Christians," he said. "There is a line drawn in the sand by Jesus that we ought not cross."
Carlisle took issue with Democratic Party stances on abortion, LGBT agendas, and illegal immigration.
"Just because I pastor a church doesn't mean I give up my right as a citizen to have an opinion, to have freedoms," Carlisle was quoted as saying. "I can enjoy the First Amendment freedoms just like anybody else."
Not only had word spread of the sign, but Carlisle reportedly posted a picture of the sign on the church's Facebook page.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, Corley's office received at least 75 complaints by 2 p.m. on Election Day.
The church has served as a polling location for at least a decade. Corley vowed not to use the church as a polling place again as long as Carlisle is pastor.
Corley told the Tampa Bay Times that in order to change a polling place, he will need to take out legal notices in the newspaper and send out updated information cards. The cost could be between $3,000 to $5,000 to the county taxpayers.
"Being a polling place is not a license to make political statements as the host," Corley said.