Debate over Dunkerton polling place following pastor's letter - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Debate over Dunkerton polling place following pastor's public letter

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DUNKERTON (KWWL) -

There's a new debate brewing in Dunkerton about an area polling place located inside a church.  The concerns come after the church's pastor recently wrote a letter in the town's newspaper, saying who people should vote for.

Reverend Tommy Rucker leads Bible studies and worship service at the Dunkerton First Baptist Church every Sunday.  But the pastor's now drawing attention for some perspective he preached outside the church--in a letter to the editor, published in the Dunkerton News.

"It is my responsibility to help people not only be good followers of Christ, but to be a good follower that means being a good citizen.  It means you take your responsibility to vote for those who we feel, interpret, will do the best job of holding up our morals, our values," said Rev. Rucker.

Those morals---Rucker's objection to same-sex marriage.  His editorial mentions state legislators who haven't allowed a public vote on such unions.  It also urges a "no" vote on Justice David Wiggins, who supported overturning Iowa's ban on gay marriage.  Everyone we talked with in Rucker's congregation support his now public position.

"I saw him as a private citizen expressing his convictions and opinions on the matter, and I respected that," church member Earl Canfield said.

But many question whether it's okay---or even legal---for a pastor to tell people how to vote, especially since Rucker's church is Dunkerton's polling place.

"Religion should be about acceptance and tolerance.  But this pastor publicly requested individuals to vote a certain way, and now that polling location is no longer neutral," said Jennifer Littlefield, Dunkerton resident.

But Reverend Rucker insists the church won't try to sway voters who come in on November 6th.  And to county election officials, that's all that matters.

"As long as the law is followed on election day, as long as no signs are posted or electioneering done within 300 feet of any entrance to the polling place, they're okay," Grant Veeder, Black Hawk County Auditor.

Still, some are concerned about the bigger message in Rucker's letter.  The reverend insists it wasn't meant to incite hate.  And ultimately, it will be up to the individual voter to determine what values matter most in determining how to vote come election day.

The IRS does have the ability to revoke a church's non-profit status for speaking on behalf of--or in opposition--to a specific candidate or issue.

Rev. RUcker says he's been writing letters to the editor on voting issues for six years, and while he's been threatened with legal action, it's never been pursued.

Additional Notes:

Questions have also been raised because Rucker's home, just feet from the church, has political signs in the yard near the polling place.  But because those signs sit on private property, not on the polling location's property, it is not a violation.

 

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