Interesting Old Prosecution for Expelling Someone from a Church Based on How He Voted

State v. Rogers, 38 S.E. 34 (N.C. 1901) (paragraph breaks added); I would suspect that today there wouldn’t even be a prosecution in such a case, even if the statute were more broadly worded:

The defendants were indicted under section 2715 of the Code …: “Any person who shall discharge from employment, withdraw patronage from, or otherwise injure, threaten, oppress or attempt to intimidate any qualified voter of the state, because of the vote such voter may or may not have cast in any election, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.”

The indictment charges the defendants with having injured, threatened, oppressed, and attempted to intimidate the prosecutor, a duly-qualified voter, by expelling him from the church of which he and they were members, on account of his having voted the Democratic ticket at the election held in August, 1900. The statute, being penal, must be construed strictly, not by implication, or otherwise than by its strict words and plain signification.

The object of the statute is to secure to the voter the exercise of the elective franchise free from pecuniary loss, personal injury, or physical restraint, neither element of which is embraced in his expulsion from the church. The injury or oppression, if any, done to the voter, was not of a physical nature. While he may have felt mortified or humiliated in being excluded from the fellowship of his associates in the exercise of the rites of that body of Christian believers holding the same creed and acknowledging the same ecclesiastical authority, and to that extent injured and oppressed, yet he suffered no loss of property or gain, nor was he in any way restrained of his liberty or otherwise controlled in the exercise of his personal conduct…. [Quashing of the indictment a]ffirmed.

UPDATE: By the way, it turns out that North Carolina was closely split in 1900, with 54% of voters voting for the Democrats. The expulsion was thus likely based on the particular views of this church, and not on some broad social anti-Democrat sentiment.

FURTHER UPDATE: I just ran across a 1891 Arkansas statute that did ban threat of expulsion from a church based on one’s vote: “No person shall coerce, intimidate or unduly influence, any elector to vote for or against the nominee of any political party, or for or against any particular question or candidate, by any threat or warning of personal violence or injury, or by any threat or warning of ejectment from rented or leased premises, or by the foreclosure of any mortgage or deed of trust, or of any action at law or equity, or of discharge from employment, or of expulsion from membership in any church, lodge, secret order or benevolent society, or by any oath, or affirmation or secret written pledge.” I could find no cases, though, applying this statute.

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