Church and state: Voter, poll worker in a war of words, alleged scuffle over Bible on Election Day

The argument over Bibles being displayed at polling places in Philly has escalated.

Scenes like this one have been the norm on Election Day. But when one Philly voter spoke out on being offended by the gesture, things allegedly turned hostile. | Image: Kerith Gabriel
Scenes like this one have been the norm on Election Day. But when one Philly voter spoke out on being offended by the gesture, things allegedly turned hostile. | Image: Kerith Gabriel

The argument over Bibles being displayed at polling places in Philly has escalated, but for one Fishtown-Kensington voter, the argument allegedly turned violent.  

“I have asked these poll workers nicely why the Bible is displayed at the polling place.  I have tried to explain to them that they cannot leave it out after they are sworn in because it is intimidating to non-Christian voters,” says a Philly resident and self-described “middle-aged white woman” who goes by Veronica.

In June she shared a video with PW that she had taken at her Olde Kensington polling place upon a confrontation with poll workers about leaving a Bible out on the table during elections. Poll workers are given the option of swearing-in on a Bible before beginning work for the day, but then instructed to return the book to its box, not display it.

“This is the third time I have asked them for the last three elections,” she says, “I have called and complained to the hotlines about election problems.”

It appears the poll workers have grown frustrated with the repeated conversations as well. When Veronica went to vote on Nov. 5 at Ward 18, Division 15 and asked again about the Bibles, she was met with resistance. In a video she shared with PW, a poll worker can be seen approaching her, getting increasingly irate and demanding to not be filmed.Play Video

Veronica alleged that one poll worker “assaulted me, hit me and grabbed at my phone.” While the video cuts do not show a confrontation between Veronica and the poll worker, the worker is heard telling Veronica that she’s going to “shove that phone up her ass.” 

“I ran out like I was escaping a mob,” Veronica noted. 

She says she’s not injured and does not want to involve the police out of fear of “retaliation from Christian groups or these poll workers,” adding, “It’s bad enough that the poll workers have my name and address and I don’t have theirs.”

As Philly Weekly reported before, officials for the Board of Elections say, if someone makes a report to the office about the Bible being displayed at a poll, they will call or send someone out to tell the poll worker to put it away, but there’s nothing that can legally be done should they refuse.

Furthermore, Samantha Pearson, chief of staff for state Rep. Mary Isaacson, confirmed to a PW reporter who voted at a different polling place in that while the Bible does have its place at the polls, it’s best practice to remove the Bible from the table. 

“It’s not illegal, but some could argue it’s immorality,” Pearson said. “It’s just good practice to put it back in the box after, but unfortunately there’s not really a rule that says [poll workers] have to, and that’s where voters understandably can get frustrated.”

Philadelphia Weekly editor Kerith Gabriel contributed to this story. 

  • Timaree Schmit Headshot

    Timaree Schmit is basically an episode of Adam Ruins Everything, but in the shape of a person. She has a PhD in Human Sexuality Education and years of experience in community organizing, performance art, and finding the extra weird pockets of Philly.