ACLU Files Lawsuit After California Church Is Removed as Polling Place for Supporting Black Lives Matter

Illustration for article titled ACLU Files Lawsuit After California Church Is Removed as Polling Place for Supporting Black Lives Matter
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With the 2018 midterms three months away, the Fresno, Calif., country clerk and register of voters received a rather peculiar grievance.


Specifically, according to the Washington Post, a voter—who I assume suffers from an acute case of white fragility—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.”

This inquiry led county clerk Brandi Orth—who I assume also suffers from an acute case of white fragility—to tell the polling place in question, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Fresno, to remove its Black Lives Matter banners. To which the 450-member, predominantly white church replied “Nah, bruh,” prompting Orth to drop the house of worship as a polling location for the November election. And thus, a lawsuit was born.

On Monday, the Fresno Bee reports that the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against Orth for infringing upon the church’s freedom of speech and “illegally” removing them as a polling site.

“At a time when we are facing voter suppression across the country, I’m hoping that no other polling place will ever be disqualified for affirming the worth and dignity of black people and other people of color,” Rev. Tim Kutzmark of the Unitarian Universalist Church told the Bee. “We also want the court to state clearly that the actions taken against the Unitarian Universalist Church of Fresno were illegal, unconstitutional and violated our right to free speech.”

Sounds about right—and white.

It should also be noted that the banners in question were posted 200 feet away from the building. Which is well beyond the 100-foot “electioneering” radius required by state law, though asserting “Black Lives Matter” isn’t electioneering anyway.


Kutzmark calls the movement “the new face of the civil rights movement in this country today” and contends that the banners are purely “a theological statement.”

“The Church is committed to examining its own white privilege and to acknowledge that many of its members have benefited from this privilege their entire lives—knowingly or unknowingly, voluntarily or involuntarily,” the lawsuit says. “The church is committed to being an ally to Fresno’s Black community and to lift up calls for racial justice and equality in Fresno.”


Prior to filing the lawsuit, Kutzmark insists the church made several attempts to resolve the matter and have the church reinstated as a polling place to no avail.

“It was only after a series of refusals that the ACLU became involved,” he said.


For her part, Orth has declined to comment on the lawsuit, despite her position that the banners prevented the church from operating as a “safe and neutral” voting site.

“The records show that she took this illegal, retaliatory action based on one person’s racist complaints,” ACLU senior attorney Mollie Lee said in a statement.


“I’m saddened and concerned that the comfort level of one white resident who felt uncomfortable with these signs, was given priority over the rights of black people to vote at a polling place that recognizes their worth and dignity,” Kutzmark said.

According to court records, a scheduling conference will take place on Sept. 17.

Menace to supremacy. Founder of Extraordinary Ideas and co-host and producer of The Extraordinary Negroes podcast. Impatiently waiting for y'all to stop putting sugar in grits.


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“Black Lives Matter (a known domestic terrorist group)...”

Known to whom, Becky?