California church files suit after being dropped as polling place over ‘Black Lives Matter’ banner

Faceebook | Unitarian Universalist Church of Fresno

A California church filed a lawsuit on Monday after it was dropped as a polling location for displaying “Black Lives Matter” banners by the side of the road.

The Unitarian Universalist Church of Fresno filed the complaint with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), accusing elected county clerk Brandi Orth of endangering the church’s constitutionally protected speech.

{mosads}The church had two yellow banners reading “Black Lives Matter” standing 200 feet away from the church building near the side of the road to be seen by drivers.

Shortly before the 2018 midterm elections, a voter sent a complaint to Orth’s office asking “why it was okay to have a Black Lives Matter (a known domestic terrorist group) sign in front of our polling place,” according to court documents obtained by The Washington Post.

The church’s minister, the Rev. Tim Kutzmark, refused to comply with Orth’s request to take the signs down in September and the church was subsequently dropped as a polling location.

The church alleges in the suit that Orth’s actions “violate the First Amendment by singling out Plaintiff’s messages for disfavor because of the views expressed in those messages.”

“The Church’s Black Lives Matter banners were not electioneering,” the complaint states. “They did not advocate for or against any candidate or measure on the ballot, and they were displayed more than 100 feet from the polling place at the Church.”

The Hill has reached out to Orth’s office for comment.

The church is located in an affluent, mostly white part of Fresno, the Post reported.

The ACLU argued in the lawsuit that the signs addressed “matters of serious public concern,” such as the impacts of racism and the high rate of black infant mortality in Fresno County, which is nearly triple the county’s overall figure.

“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 states. “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.”

Tags Black Lives Matter California Elections Fresno polling locations Unitarian Universalist Church of Fresno
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