Crown Heights Rav’s Psak On Voting In Church Raises Storm

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Illustrative: A long line of voters forms outside of First United Methodist Church as the sun rose over Lake Superior in Duluth, Minn., on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. (Alex Kormann/Star Tribune via AP)

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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)


14 COMMENTS

  1. Crown Heights Rav’s Psak On Voting In Church Raises Storm
    Such a childish headline. Is this the first Machlokis haposkim you ever heard of?

  2. It’s pekuach nefesh. If the socialist take over then we can close our yeshivas. They would outlaw Torah and demand we teach evolution and toeiva subjects.

  3. I had a shaila years ago. I worked for a company which I needed to do computer service in a church. I was not sure what to do. I called Rav Dovid Feinstein shlita and he gave the same Psak that if it is not in the main sanctuary entrance and not in the main sanctuary, he said there was no problem.

  4. The Rav’s father was the Posek of Flatbush. Harav Shlomo Salman Braun zatzal. He was mechaber Shearim Metzuyanim.

    BTW this Shayla came up in BP years ago. The Rabbonim already paskened.

  5. In the immediate area of Torah Vodaas in Kensington there are 3 voting locations. 1 in a Public School and 2 in Churches. Rav Pam’s voting location was in a Church. While he himself didn’t go, he did tell others to go vote. Rav Mutzafi should stick to his own local rabble rousing.

  6. What a beautiful Q Not sure what the storm is sounds like someone on this despicable website YWN is trying to start machlokes or cause ppl to talk bad about Rabanim wow to this person on his last day.

  7. The whole world knows you’re going there to vote, not pray (when Christians generally aren’t praying Tuesday night anyway). Go vote!!!!

    MAGA 2020

  8. Yidden have entered churches for various purposes including to do certain work/repairs, meeting dignatories or royal events, and accessing ksavin (manuscripts) of Torah writings held by church (e.g. vatican). The heter is always the same: not m’kom tefila or zman tefila (and not to honor the avoda zara).

  9. There’s the option to vote early at an early voting site different than the election day church location. Alternatively, one can vote by absentee ballot.

  10. I heard from Rav Laibel Katz ztz’l that there was exact the same shaalo about the polling station near Torah Vodaas in the 1970s (or earlier I don’t remember the exact time period)

    The psak was you can vote in a church as long as you just go to where the polling booths are set up, leave with quickest exit and don’t go anywhere else in the buildng.

  11. Many years ago, when I lived in Queens, my voting place was in a Catholic school. I was very angry about it and felt that my right to vote was being compromised. I asked my local Rav and he told me that b’dieved it was permissible but I had to do it as quickly as possible and make sure not to look at any religious icons. To this day, I think it should be unconstitutional to put a voting place in a religious institution.

  12. Dear Marty
    It appears that there is a deviation from what Rabbi Braun is being quoted and the way you’re quoting Rav Feinstien.
    If the Church building has only one entrance & the polling station isn’t in the shrine but in a side room.
    It appears that Rav Feinstien would prohibit enetering the building and Rabbi Braun would permit entering the building.