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S.C. pastors say lottery won’t improve education

COLUMBIA, S.C. (BP)–Saying they did not intend to lift up or put down any political candidates, a group of approximately 200 South Carolina pastors — including many Southern Baptist pastors — held a news conference at the state capitol in Columbia Oct. 22 to arouse the public against gambling’s “false promises” with the Nov. 3 election at hand.
Mike Hamlet, pastor of First Baptist Church, North Spartanburg, and the immediate past president of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, said the press conference on the steps of the statehouse was aimed at alerting voters to gambling’s dangers to society and the increasing strength of the gaming industry in the life of South Carolina and its government.
The pastors issued a statement expressing their belief that South Carolinians should not be taken in by the idea being promoted — particularly in a call for a lottery in the state– that money made from gambling is the answer to the question of how to improve the public education system.
“The organized gambling industry,” the statement said, “sells itself with the idea that state revenue from gambling will improve education in South Carolina. Nothing could be further from the truth. The organized gambling industry promises economic growth, but delivers economic misery.”
The Democratic candidate for governor, Jim Hodges, has advocated a state lottery to provide funds for improving public education in South Carolina. Incumbent Gov. David Beasley says he opposes the lottery but would be willing to let the people decide the issue in a referendum.
Currently, 37 states and the District of Columbia operate state lotteries. The state constitution forbids a lottery in South Carolina.
Southern Baptist pastors and lay leaders across the state, meanwhile, were called to a day of prayer Oct. 25 in a letter from the executive director-treasurer and president of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.
Carlisle Driggers and David Gallamore, together with the convention’s Christian Life and Public Affairs Committee, called on Baptists “to step to the forefront once again to lead the fight against gambling.”
“As you know, we as South Carolina Baptists have stood against gambling in any form for many years,” their letter stated, recounting, “Just this past spring, we spearheaded an all-out effort to ban the most deadly practice of gambling that exists, video poker. At that time, the state House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted against video poker. The state Senate had the votes to pass the ban, but a small group of senators managed to block it by means of a filibuster. Many of our legislators who oppose gambling told us that they appreciated our efforts to inform our people about the dangers of gambling.”
Noting organized gambling forces have mobilized and are spending millions, Driggers and Gallamore noted battle lines likely will be intense when the legislative session begins in January. “If the gambling industry moves forward with their plans, life as we know it in our state will change dramatically for the worse,” they wrote.
According to the letter, the state convention will send materials to pastors and lay leaders to “help them take their stand in the public square.” Driggers and Gallamore reminded Baptists, “This is not about politics or partisanship; it is about standing for what is right.”

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