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Local church responds to complaint about Black Lives Matter sign

Parkside Lutheran will keep the sign-up after the Board of Elections received an anonymous complaint about it. The church is a polling place & the sign is legal.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Someone sent an anonymous letter to the New York State Board of Elections and the Erie County Board of Elections complaining about a Buffalo church, which serves as a polling place, for having a Black Lives Matter sign on its property.

The pastor hopes this starts some conversations about inequity and he also says the sign isn't going anywhere.

A week ago, Pastor Jeremiah Smith got a call from the Erie County Board of Elections.

"I'm honestly shocked. We have received overwhelming words of praise and thanks, so this anonymous complaint kind of came out of the left field," said Rev. Jeremiah Smith, Pastor of Parkside Lutheran Church in Buffalo.

The call was about an anonymous letter the Board of Elections got about the Black Lives Matter and Dismantle White Supremacy signs on Parkside Lutheran's lawn. 

"They were very clear that they can't order us, but they were asking us to consider removing our Black Lives Matter sign during voting hours," said Rev. Jeremiah Smith.

Parkside Lutheran put the signs up after the shooting at Tops in May. 

"What was your response to that letter?" asked 2 On Your Side's Kelly Dudzik.

"At first I was a little taken aback. We think it's a wonderful ministry to serve as a polling place and it's a beneficial relationship, but I was also confused because, for us, Black Lives Matter is not a political statement, but it's a statement of faith. It's about human rights and human dignity for all," said Rev. Jeremiah Smith.

A spokesperson for the Erie County Board of Elections told 2 On Your Side that both the county and state board of elections received that anonymous letter and confirms they told the church they could consider taking the signs down during voting hours, but says they don't have to. 

"I would hope by now that it is so obvious that there are serious systemic issues in our country and here in our city, I mean, did we not see that after the shooting at Tops that we are one of the most racially segregated cities in America. That doesn't happen by accident and we need to be all taking public action to work to dismantle these structures that are in place, so these words, quite frankly, should have been said before, but now they're more important than ever," says Rev. Jeremiah Smith.

The pastor plans to keep the signs there.

"These signs have to stay up until this country no longer has Black folks being killed at two times the rate by police than white folks until Black women don't die at three times the rate of white women in pregnancy until all in the City of Buffalo are not dealing with food apartheid and have equitable access to supermarkets. There's just so much work we have to do and why these signs have to stay," says Rev. Jeremiah Smith.

The church council says it is grateful for the opportunity to support access to voting by offering its building as a polling place.


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