Rashional Thoughts: Our concerns do matter — pray for your elected officials and share your heart

March 17, 2021

How about that state gambling legislation result from March 9? I wasn’t sure Senate Bill 214 could be defeated in the Senate, but I was impressed to learn the bill’s sponsor Sen. Del Marsh attributes the defeat to Baptists. Click here for the full story.

It is refreshing to hear that our elected officials do want to hear from their constituents and understand what matters most to them — that voicing our concerns makes a difference.

We all should know who represents us and let them hear from us on various issues. My preference would be to build an ongoing relationship and to have conversations along the way, but the moments right before a big vote are also vital times to contact them.

I would encourage you to write a note to at least one, maybe more, of the 13 senators who were bold enough to vote no on SB 214 last week.

It’s not easy to go against a powerhouse like the gambling industry and the pressure from other legislators can be intense.

My notes to the 13 are already in the mail.

If you don’t have a local address, then mail the note at his or her attention to: Alabama Senate, 11 South Union Street, Montgomery, AL 36130.

If you need help finding your senator and/or representative, visit tabonline.org/contact.

While we applaud those who voted no, we also encourage the others to truly think about the possible consequences that come with any potential revenue gambling expansion might bring.

Read here about how Alabama currently ranks near the bottom in the nation in “most gambling-addicted states.” This is one time a low ranking is actually a win, and it is directly attributed to the tight restrictions on what is considered legal gambling in the state.

Yes, illegal gambling continues across the state and still baffles me after 25 years of covering the issue. How is it so hard to control when our state’s laws are clear, even after multiple groups have tested them and some legislators consistently — and so far unsuccessfully — attempt to change them?

Speaking of years of covering the gambling debate, I pulled the Oct. 21, 1999, issue of The Alabama Baptist out of archives to reread the story on the statewide lottery defeat that year.

The lede to the front-page news article — which oddly enough has a Jennifer Davis Rash byline — says, “Alabama voters rejected a state lottery Oct. 12 following an unprecedented and aggressive move by the state’s churches.”

The late Dan Ireland, then executive director of Alabama Citizens Action Program, is quoted in the article noting, “The church community was the balance of power.”

Ireland worked feverishly alongside Joe Bob Mizzell, then leader of the state’s Christian Life Commission and a state missionary with the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, and Bob Terry, then editor of The Alabama Baptist, to rally a coalition of conservative-minded citizens and evangelical Christians in the state.

Rick Lance, executive director of the State Board of Missions, also noted in the article how prayer and recognizing the value of “simply telling the truth” were critical to the effort.

Still, attempts at expanding gambling in the state continue.

From 2002 to 2006, video gambling arcades popped up around the state and kept our staff following court case after court case.

In 2009 and 2010, electronic bingo gambling casinos became all the craze, complete with star-studded efforts to buy the local communities’ support.

Those two years of coverage took our team to an entirely new level of investigative reporting.

And then in 2015, The Alabama Baptist continued its efforts by helping prove the false promises attached to Marsh’s proposed gambling legislation that year — somewhat similar to the 2021 bill, but not nearly as extensive as what was in the recent version.

While many of our indepth reports on gambling have won national awards through the years, it was the 2015 Freedom of Information — First Amendment Award from Alabama Press Association that demonstrated the positive contributions we as people of faith, and specifically Baptists, are making to the state.

So even though our staff gets weary of fighting against what is described as a “lazy man’s revenue generator” (See story here), we work to remember we are called to be contributing citizens — and the effort is worth it.

We are to strive for excellence in all we do and that includes developing productive infrastructures for all citizens to have legitimate opportunities to support themselves and make their own positive mark on the community in which they live.

By Jennifer Davis Rash

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