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Missouri Baptists encouraged to oppose ‘Boats in Moats’ vote

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (BP)–Baptists in Missouri are being urged to oppose a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would legalize casino gambling in “boats in moats.”
The Missouri Baptist Convention executive board approved unanimously July 14 a resolution opposing efforts to expand casino gambling beyond riverboats on the Missouri and Mississippi rivers.
The executive board also voted to allocate $25,000 in unspent budget funds to be used in efforts to defeat the gambling initiative.
“It’s a moral issue and always has been,” said Wendell Page, MBC president and pastor of First Baptist Church, Lee’s Summit. “The facts prove where casinos are located, incomes are limited. There are even increased suicides.”
Missouri Baptist leaders acknowledged it will take more than money to successfully oppose expansion of gambling in Missouri. Page said Missouri Baptists need to join with other denominational and civic groups to oppose the amendment.
“It will have to be a grassroots effort,” Page said. “The gambling industry has a lot of money and we don’t.”
Page said Ann Sherer, resident bishop of the United Methodist Church, Chesterfield, Mo., and Tom Gray, executive director of the National Coalition Against Gambling Expansion, began holding regional meetings in June in an effort to educate the religious public concerning proposed casino amendment.
Page said he and Sherer have discussed ways various faith groups can come together to oppose the amendment.
“We’re hoping the Missouri Southern Baptists, the Disciples of Christ, the Presbyterians, the Lutherans and the Roman Catholics can all help in this effort,” Page said.
Jim Hill, MBC executive director, said a task force of Missouri Baptists and other groups will begin meeting soon to plan and implement strategies to get the message out about the issue.
“Because this issue is coming to voters on such short notice, it is urgent for Missouri Baptists to respond. We need to mobilize our people the next few months,” he said.
Hill and Page coauthored a letter that was mailed to all Missouri Baptist churches and related entities regarding the November vote.
The Missouri Baptist Convention is a fellowship of more than 1,900 churches representing 620,000 members affiliated with the national Southern Baptist Convention.

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  • Tim Palmer