Cornerstone church could foster partisan poll sites

The Cornerstone Church is under intense scrutiny because of its decision to hold satellite-based polling during Sunday worship services. Early voting for the November 2 general election will be held via satellite polling stations in eight locations in Ames, including five churches.

Although churches are frequently locations for voting, this instance is creating controversy because of the exact time two of the voting stations will be open and the current issues that could be affected by the outcome of the elections.

Polls will be open at Cornerstone Church this Sunday from eight to two pm while there will concurrently be worship services at nine and eleven o’clock. This location is one of five churches selected by Story County Auditor, Mary Mosiman, after a petition requesting satellite polling stations was submitted to the story county Auditor’s office.

According to Tim Lubinus, the Global & Regional Ministries Director of Cornerstone Church, the church itself did not submit the petition to hold the polls, rather, it was submitted anonymously on their behalf. The petition requires 100 signatures from individuals who are U.S. citizens, residents of Story County, over 18 years of age, are mentally capable, and are not convicted felons.

One aspect of the location under debate is the fact that the church sermon could influence those attending the polls that Sunday. This problem is being hotly debated on many websites and message boards, including the Ames Tribune, that enabled reader comments and featured them online.

“The intent of the those [sic] churches has been to be good civic citizens,” says the commenter, My Advantage. “Up to this point in time, nobody has abused this opportunity. It is clear that by having the polls open shortly before, shortly after and during services the main intent is to give your church’s members an advantage of the access to the polls.

Although the voting and the church service will be held on the same day, the polls but will be taken elsewhere in the building.

“The voting will be held in a separate part of the facility from where the worship service takes place and there will be a separate parking area for people who wish to vote,” said Alex Tuckness on behalf of Cornerstone church in a statement to the Ames Tribune.

However, many residents are unsatisfied with the response and are still wary of the church’s potential motives.

“Mr. Tuckness is only fooling himself. Cornerstone Church is not a convenient voting location for anyone but the members of Cornerstone Church and perhaps their neighbors at Campus Baptist Church. That there are no partisan politics going on at Cornerstone is also self-delusion. People can read between the lines, Mr. Tuckness,” said another commenter named Ben, in response to the letter to the editor by Tuckness. “When the preacher gives a sermon on Sundays (any Sunday) about how immoral our country is and how it needs to change, they know exactly how they are supposed to be voting. If you want to continue doing that, that’s fine, but don’t offer up your facilities as a voting station that will only benefit your parishioners and pretend it’s okay.”

This potential influence presents a problem when observing the polling laws section 21.300(8) line c that states: “No signs supporting or opposing any candidate or question on the ballot shall be posted within 300 feet of the satellite absentee voting station.  No electioneering shall be allowed within the sight or hearing of voters while they are at the satellite absentee voting station.”

Electioneering is a form of campaigning that is defined as, take part actively and energetically in the activities of an election campaign and is considered illegal for a non-profit organization like a church that claims tax-exempt according to section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

The sermon scheduled for this Sunday’s worship will be based on 1 John 2:28-3:10, that discusses the second coming of Jesus Christ, the messiah of the Christian faith and the sin of lawlessness.

Another source that feeds this controversy is the accusation that the church has some connection with Mosiman and the republican political campaign to unseat three of Iowa’s Supreme court justices. One of the justices was Chief Justice Marsha Ternus who recently spoke on the Iowa State Campus in regards to the current political campaign to unseat them because of their ruling that illegalizing gay marriage is unconstitutional.

However, the church has not specific stance on gay marriage, according to Tim Lubinus, the Global & Regional Ministries Director of Cornerstone “I can assure you that that issue had nothing to do with us offering the building,” Lubinus said in reference to the church’s stance on the November Elections and gay marriage. Cornerstone Church prides itself on being bi-partisan and not preaching in favor or against any political parties.

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