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The following was forwarded to me from Msgr. Gerard Lopez, Vicar General for the Diocese of San Bernardino in California. This was sent to pastors whose parishes will be used as polling places. As far as he knows, this is the first time they’ve sent out advisories like this in his diocese.
I’m posting it here with his kind permission. He thinks it may be helpful to other places around the country.
Dear Fathers and Deacons: Thank you for being willing to have your parish as an Election polling place next week. A total of 14 parishes are serving as Election Day polling sites in our Diocese. Bishop Barnes is very thankful for your civic involvement; also, Bishop Barnes is concerned with the safety and security of your parishioners, parish staff, and voters on Election Day. Because of this concern which we all share, I have been asked by Bishop Barnes to send you and your parish staff some suggestions and guidelines for Election Day. I consulted with both Ann Marie Gallant of our Emergency Operations Collaborative (EOC) and Mr. Ed Garcia (our security consultant and retired Police Chief); they have offered some of the following suggestions for the 14 parishes serving as Election Day polling sites: 1) Please note that the County Registrar of Voters in each County does not provide security for polling places; however, it is our understanding that both Counties [Riverside and San Bernardino] have requested additional police and sheriff personnel on Election Day in case any problems arise at any polling place; this means that 911 calls will receive very immediate response from the local Police and Sheriff Departments in both Counties. 2) It is suggested for your parish to hire an UNARMED security guard for your parish on Election Day. The guard should be UNARMED but they should wear their security uniform to deter persons wishing to cause harm or disturbances at your parish, especially if you have a parish school. The guards are strongly recommended to have radios so they can call 911 if a problem develops at your parish. 3) If you decide to hire a private security guard, this is the company we use at the Diocesan Pastoral Center which we recommend: Land Housing and Security Inc. Of course, you can also call security firms in your own local area. 4) Your parish staff should keep an eye open for persons possibly causing any trouble. If your staff or security guards see any unauthorized “election monitor” loitering around the polling area, or someone who looks ominous or intimidating to voters, your staff or security guard should ask the person to leave the premises. If the unauthorized “election monitors” refuse to leave the premises, call 911 and report this. 5) Protesters or anyone with protest signs must stay on the public sidewalk; they cannot be on church property. Again, if protesters are on church premises and refuse to stay on the public sidewalk, call 911. 6) You may want to purchase some “NO LOITERING” signs and post them on the entry doors of the rooms or halls being used for election polling. 7) If you have your own parish security ministry, please be sure they wear some sort of ID clothing, official vest, or a parish ID badge that will help people see that they [your parish security ministers] are officially connected to the parish and represent your parish. In these days, the people of our Country will look to our churches and religious leaders for guidance and hope; let us remember this in this Election Season. Please try to include a General Intercession for a peaceful Election Day at your Masses this weekend. Sample prayers and resources will be sent to you this week by the Office of Worship. Also, please refer to the various letters and resources sent by our Diocese, the California Catholic Conference, and the USCCB (Bishops’ Conference) on the various websites. Thank you for your spiritual leadership and cooperation. Please let me know if you have any question or concern. May the Lord bless your week.
The Diocese of San Bernardino has also issued the following prayer before Election Day:
Lord God, as the election approaches, we seek to better understand the issues and concerns that confront our city/state/country, and how the Gospel compels us to respond as faithful citizens in our community.
We ask for eyes that are free from blindness so that we might see each other as brothers and sisters, one and equal in dignity, especially those who are victims of abuse and violence, deceit and poverty.
We ask for ears that will hear the cries of children unborn and those abandoned, Men and women oppressed because of race or creed, religion or gender.
We ask for minds and hearts that are open to hearing the voice of leaders who will bring us closer to your Kingdom.
We pray for discernment so that we may choose leaders who hear your Word, live your love, and keep in the ways of your truth as they follow in the steps of Jesus and his Apostles and guide us to your Kingdom of justice and peace.
We ask this in the name of your Son Jesus Christ and through the power of the Holy Spirit.