An Election Day polling place opened Tuesday next to a well-known Catholic church in Old Town San Diego embroiled in a controversy involving a bulletin that implied Hillary Clinton is Satanic.
The voting station at Father Junipero Serra Hall invited locals to cast their ballots next to the Immaculate Conception Church, where the pastor has taken a prominent stand on this election.
On Oct. 16, fliers featuring the writings of Father Richard Perozich were inserted into the church’s newsletter and warned that voting for Democrats would result in parishioners “descending into Hell” and implied that Clinton was working with the Devil. One leaflet stuffed into the newsletter and distributed to churchgoers stated: “How to vote like a Catholic – it is a mortal sin to vote Democrat!”
The handout outlined several hot-button political issues, including abortion, and noted the church’s stance on the topic. Two weeks later, parishioners received a second bulletin titled, “Voting Catholic,” imploring parishioners to take a “Catholic view” when casting their ballots.
The bulletins grabbed the attention of many in San Diego. On Saturday, protesters stood outside the church with signs that read “Separation of Church and State” and other phrases.
Perozich argued it was his right to exercise Freedom of Speech in his writings.
However, on a statement posted online, Bishop Robert McElroy of the Immaculate Conception Church said the church violated its duty and went against Catholic teaching by implying that voting for either party would automatically condemn a person to Hell.
On Thursday, Kevin Eckery, a spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego, told NBC 7 he doesn't know how the first insert got into church bulletins. He called the second bulletin “unusual,” noting the tone was different than how the church normally addresses parishioners.
The polling site near the church was busy Tuesday, but no protests had taken place as of 11 a.m. One officer with the San Diego Police Department had stopped by the site to make sure everything was alright.
Philippe Montgrain voted with his wife at the polling place near the Immaculate Conception Church. The couple came prepared, writing down their choices on a piece of paper and then marking them in the ballot booth.
The couple’s young children were in tow. Montgrain said they used Election Day as an opportunity to teach their kids about the importance of voting.
“We've been very open the whole time with them about our responsibility to get out and vote,” Montgrain told NBC 7. “They were very curious about the process, so we decided to bring them along – show them very early what it's like so when they're 18 they can come out and vote as soon as they can.”
On the way out, one man joked that he had voted with the Devil at the polling place, referring to the controversial bulletin, saying he had cast his vote for Clinton.