From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Religious Groups Form Anti-gambling Coalition

Date 04 May 1996 20:51:50


96034     Religious Groups Form Anti-gambling Coalition 
                       by David E. Anderson 
                      Religion News Service 
WASHINGTON--In a rare show of unity on a public policy issue, the National 
Council of Churches (NCC) and the Christian Coalition have announced that 
they will work together to try and stop the spread of legal gambling in the 
United States. 
     "When the Christian Coalition and the NCC join together on an issue, 
that's remarkable," said Ralph Reed, executive director of the Christian 
Coalition.  Reed spoke at a news conference Jan. 17 to announce the opening 
of a Washington office of the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling 
     He was joined by the Rev. Tom Grey, a United Methodist minister and 
executive director of NCALG; Mary Cooper, associate director of the NCC's 
Washington office; the Rev. Elenora Giddings Ivory, director of the 
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Washington office; and the Rev. Thom White 
Wolf Fassett, general secretary of the United Methodist Church's Board of 
Church and Society. 
     The new Washington office, to be headed by Grey, is an expansion of a 
modest effort he began in Chicago.  He said the interfaith effort announced 
Jan. 17 was a signal that the nation's religious community is ready to take 
the offense against the gambling industry. 
     Some form of gambling is legal in all but two states -- Utah and 
Hawaii.  In 1992, some $329 billion was legally wagered in the nation, 
according to both proponents and opponents of legalized gambling.  The 
figure includes state-sponsored lotteries. 
     Frank Fahrenkopf Jr., president of the American Gaming Association, a 
Washington-based trade association of large casino operators, said he was 
not surprised at the opening of the office. 
     "Our attitude is that people who don't agree with us have the right to 
organize and pursue their agenda," Fahrenkopf said.  "If they want to say 
that gaming is immoral, that's fine and I respect them for that.  But I 
resent it when he [Grey] and others point their fingers at me and the eight 
of 10 Americans who don't believe that," he added.  
     At the top of the anti-gambling effort's priorities, Grey said, is 
establishment of a national commission to investigate legalized gambling's 
economic impact on cities, its alleged ties to organized crime and the 
political influence the gambling industry wields through campaign 
     Legislation to create the commission has been introduced in the U.S. 
House of Representatives by Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., and in the Senate by 
Paul Simon, D-Ill.  President Clinton has voiced support for the idea. 
     "It is our view that gambling in any form contributes nothing positive 
to society," the NCC's Cooper said.  "It offers no services, creates 
nothing of value, and does not improve the lives of those who participate." 
     Reed was even stronger.  "We believe gambling is a cancer on the 
American body politic," he said.  "It is stealing food from the mouths of 
children ... [and] turning wives into widows." 
     Ivory, in voicing the Presbyterian Church's support for the 
anti-gambling coalition, cited a statement by the 1995 General Assembly 
charging that legalized gambling "has negatively affected the overall 
quality of life and has cost billions of dollars in communities and entire 
     The full text of Ivory's statement: 
     "The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is the 
national policy-making body for the 2.8 million-member denomination.  At 
its 1995 meeting in July, the General Assembly reaffirmed its historic 
opposition to legalized gambling.  The first recorded vote in opposition 
was taken in 1936. 
     "The 1995 statement  encourages its synods, presbyteries, sessions, 
ministers and church members to become educated and active about this 
issue, its pastors to preach sermons against gambling legislation, and its 
synods, presbyteries, congregations, ministers and members to help educate 
the public in their localities and to telephone and write letters about 
this issue to their public officials.' 
     "The statement went on to say: 
        Legalized gambling has negatively affected the overall quality of 
life and has cost billions of dollars in communities and entire states. 
       We value, as the Christian church, life and the healthy development 
of communities where friendship, health, love, creativity, safety, 
productivity, and spirituality are encouraged. 
       The spirit of legalized gambling is in direct opposition to the 
Spirit of Jesus the Christ, our Savior and leader, who taught us to love 
one another, to share our resources with one another, to work for the good 
of all in God's name, and to value the soul far more highly than money. 
        Government is supposed to protect people and the common good rather 
than develop a public policy of  gambling on gambling.'" 

For more information contact Presbyterian News Service
  Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
  phone 502-569-5504            fax 502-569-8073  
  E-mail   Web page: 


Browse month . . . Browse month (sort by Source) . . . Advanced Search & Browse . . . WFN Home