Archbishop urges priests to 'abstain from voting' in presidential primary |

Archbishop urges priests to 'abstain from voting' in presidential primary

Updated: February 26, 2020 07:12 PM

Archbishop Bernard Hebda is urging priests and deacons in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis to follow a Minnesota Catholic Conference recommendation to "abstain from voting" in Minnesota's presidential primary on Super Tuesday.

The archbishop is the latest to express concern about Minnesota's new primary law requiring voters to choose a specific party ballot and have that information recorded and shared with the parties.

In the email obtained by 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS, Archbishop Hebda says "it could be seen as 'partisan' political activity to align oneself with a party and to vote in its primary, which the Church generally discourages clergy from doing for evangelical reasons, more so than tax ones."

As a tax-exempt organization, the church generally avoids partisan political activities and usually focuses on specific issues rather than party politics.

"To be clear, there is no tax prohibition on clergy voting in primaries, as clergy can endorse candidates in their individual capacities," the archbishop writes. "But the possibility that the data may become public should discourage clergy from participating."

The archbishop's position gets a sympathetic ear from DFL House leaders who are voting Wednesday night on a bill that would restrict party access to voter data.

Minnesota voter privacy bill unveiled as presidential primaries quickly approach

"We have heard from Minnesotans that they're a little concerned about going to vote in a primary where it will be recorded which ballot they pick up," said DFL House Speaker Melissa Hortman. "So we have moved very quickly to get a measure to the House floor to protect voter privacy."

The author of the bill, DFL Rep. Ray Dehn, of Minneapolis, said he's heard concerns similar to the archbishop's from several groups.

"It absolutely is a legitimate concern," Dehn said. "We've heard from not just tax-exempt groups and nonprofits but clergy don't want that information available."

It's unclear whether the Republican-controlled Senate will pass a bill to change the primary voting law. The head of the Minnesota Republican Party, Jennifer Carnahan, is opposed to making changes now that voting is already underway.

But, DFL Gov. Tim Walz said there's still time to act before any of the data is shared after the primary election.

"There's folks that work really hard in positions where they're non-partisan judges, clergy and others that don't want to be in this position and I am with them on that," the governor told reporters Wednesday afternoon.

A spokesman for the archdiocese said the archbishop had no further comment on the email, saying, "The rationale is pretty clear."

Hebda's full email can be seen here.

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Tom Hauser

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