Residents of Crown Heights are facing a halachic issue on Tuesday as their voting booth station is in a local church and although residents made efforts to have the location changed, they were unable to do so, COL reported.
Rav Yosef Braun, the Rav of Crown Heights, paskened this week that voting in a church is only permissible when the actual voting booth is in a room that does not serve as the prayer room since it is then apparent to all that the purpose of entering the room is not for prayer. Furthermore, it is only permissible if there is no other option.
“One may enter a church to vote, provided it is not in the sanctuary, but rather they specifically set up a room for this purpose, e.g. the basement or a different room, since everyone knows that you are there to vote and not for anything else,” Rav Braun stated. “This is only permitted if one has no other place to vote. If the location can be changed, it must be changed.” (Sources: See Teshuvos V’hanhugos 2:410. Chayei Halevi 4:63)
Rav Braun’s psak raised a storm and one of Hagaon HaRav Ben Tzion Mutzafi’s talmidim asked him whether he could vote in the U.S. elections if his voting station is in a room in the courtyard of a church, where prayers are not held.
HaRav Mutzafi answered that one should not vote in such a situation. “This shaila was presented to Hagaon Rabbeinu Ovaida Hadaih, z’tl and he stated that the matter is simple – it is forbidden to enter their churches where crosses are hung and is a source of the sitra achra.” HaRav Mutzafi also quoted other halachic sources.
However, a senior Chabad Rav in Israel, Hagaon Rav Tuvia Blau, the Rav of the Chabad kehilla in Neve Yaakov, supported HaRav Braun’s psak. “It is definitely permissible to rely on the psak of HaRav Hagaon Yosef Braun, who is a Gadol B’Torah and halacha. As the Rav of the neighborhood, he is familiar with the situation and based his psak on the situation, and limited his psak to very specific conditions.”
“Furthermore, at stake is an issue that has a direct bearing on a matter of pikuach nefesh – the difference between the incumbent candidate Trump and his rival, as everyone knows.”
Rav Blau added further restrictions to keep in mind when entering a church. “One should be cautious and take note of certain halachos – not to bend down in a low place, not to look at places of avodah zara which are forbidden to be looked at. Also, one should not delay by even one extra moment beyond the voting process and shouldn’t even wait there in line until the vote.”
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)