Editor's Note: Massachusetts Conference Minister & President Jim Antal has joined with other religious leaders from across the state in signing the following letter:
A Statement from Heads of Churches in Support of Ballot Question 3
We, the undersigned leaders of communities of faith from across Massachusetts, are united in our support of the effort to repeal the 2011 expanded gambling legislation which would allow for three casinos and a slots parlor in the state. We urge all voters to vote Yes on Question 3.
Our faith traditions offer a message of Good News for humankind. We are called to love our neighbor and show compassion for the less fortunate among us. We believe casinos, in contrast, are bad news for the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters and damage our communities.
By enacting the 2011 legislation, our state government has created a policy which cheats and exploits people and perpetuates inequality and unfairness in society. Our government should be protecting us from the very thing they are promoting.
We concur with the conclusion of the 2013 report from the Council on Casinos, an independent, nonpartisan group of scholars and leaders, which states:
Evidence from the health and social sciences suggests that the new American casinos are associated with a range of negative health, economic, political, intellectual, and social outcomes. For this reason, we view state sponsorship of casino gambling as a regressive and damaging policy.
The research and evidence we have seen leads us to believe that all people of compassion -- whether they are from a faith tradition or not -- would come to the same conclusion.
While the casino industry suggests that it will provide much needed jobs, we know that the citizens of Massachusetts have wise and imaginative leaders who can solve employment issues without falling for the illusion of casino prosperity.
Recent events in the regional casino industry such as massive layoffs in Connecticut and the closing of four casinos in Atlantic City indicate that casinos will not bring new money to our state’s economy. Discretionary income that now goes to locally owned retail businesses will be diverted and will negatively impact other areas of our economy.
Research shows that proximity to casinos increases the chance of pathological gambling by 90 percent
resulting in increased strains on family budgets, bankruptcy, and theft.
It is not in keeping with our rich and varied history to be the 40th
state in the country to introduce casinos as a form of revenue enhancement. We lead the country on issues of social justice, community health, and equality. We can lead again by being the first state to repeal a law that allows for expanded gambling and introduces an industry that has already brought its corrupt culture into Massachusetts.
We urge people to vote Yes on Question 3 to Repeal the Casino Mess.
The Rev. Dr. Jim Antal, Minister and President, MA Conference, United Church of Christ
The Rev. T.J. DeMarco, Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of Boston
Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar, New England Conference, United Methodist Church
The Rev. Laura Everett, Massachusetts Council of Churches
Bishop Doug Fisher, Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts
Bishop Alan Gates, Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts
Bishop James Hazelwood, New England Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America