DERRY, NH (CBS) – The Catholic Action League is protesting the decision to fire a New Hampshire elections volunteer. She was told she was fired for saying “God bless you” to people at the polls.
But was she actually breaking the law?
Ruth Provencal is a devout Catholic whose favorite phrase when saying goodbye has now thrust her into controversy.
“I would say ‘thank you for voting, God Bless you,’” Provencal explains.
After serving as an election volunteer five times, the 67-year-old was told to stay home on November 4th, sacked by Derry officials who argued that her reference to God might be an illegal effort to influence voters.
“I just can’t believe that you’re telling me that I can’t say the word God,” she told the elections official. “Then she said ‘no you can’t.’”
That Derry elections supervisor declined an interview Monday but issued a statement saying Provencal was actually canned for several questionable actions because Derry, “couldn’t take the chance of running afoul of the anti-electioneering statute.”
“I said to her, you have got to be kidding,” Provencal says. “There was nobody that I even talked to about voting.”
The state law on so-called ‘electioneering’ is somewhat generic, making it a misdemeanor for a poll worker “to act in any way specifically designed to influence the vote of a voter.”
WBZ-TV found no shortage of folks taking her side.
“There’s so much wrong things going on that we are going to pick on a lady for that? Come on,” a man said.
“I’m a diehard Democrat I bless people all the time because I figure we can all use a few blessings,” a woman said.
The controversy jumped to another level over the weekend when the Catholic League sent a letter of protest to New Hampshire’s Secretary of State, calling Provencal’s removal “entirely unreasonable.”
The now ex-volunteer is bewildered — but not bitter.
“I am praying to God that we don’t take God out of this country,” Provencal said.
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