Saturday, October 06, 2012

Federal Court Issues Consent Judgment Barring Enforcement of Montana Law On Clergy Pressuring Voters

In Zastrow v. Bullock, (D MT, Oct. 2, 2012), a Montana federal district court entered a permanent injunction with the consent of all parties barring enforcement of a Montana statute, MCA § 13-35-218(2) which provides:
A person who is a minister, preacher, priest, or other church officer or who is an officer of any corporation or organization, religious or otherwise, may not, other than by public speech or print, urge, persuade, or command any voter to vote or refrain from voting for or against any candidate, political party ticket, or ballot issue submitted to the people because of the person's religious duty or the interest of any corporation, church, or other organization.
The injunction also bars enforcement of MCA  § 13-13-113(1) which requires the text of § 13-35-218(2) to be included in "Warning Posters" displayed in polling stations throughout the state. As reported by the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, the suit was filed by an Assemblies of God minister who was arrested for trespass after he refused to leave an area in a park commonly used to gather signatures. Pastor Calvin Zastrow was attempting to convince voters that they had a religious duty to support pro-life initiatives and candidates. The state subsequently dropped charges against Zastrow.  Apparently the law, originally enacted in 1913, has never been enforced.