Church leaders oppose gambling

 — Dec. 17, 200117 déc. 2001

Gambling ills too horrific, churches say:
Pressure on city, province to halt casino expansion until problems addressed

by Betty Ann Adam, Saskatoon Star Phoenix

Saskatoon church leaders are raising their voices together against expanded casino gambling.

Twelve leaders of churches have signed a joint statement directed to city council and the provincial government saying the people must be heard.

The leaders call on the provincial government to complete a thorough study of problem gambling and release the information to the public before contemplating any further expansion. They also urge city council to give citizens another opportunity to express their views about casino expansion.

“We believe that when the true facts about the level of problem gambling and the extent of suffering brought about by it are revealed, the majority of people would remain opposed to any further expansion,” the letter states.

It’s not right for society to enjoy benefits of money obtained by the suffering of people whose lives have been devastated by gambling, said some of the leaders who were gathered Sunday at a function for the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism, an interdenominational organization.

Rev. Colin Clay of the Saskatoon Council of Churches and retired University of Saskatchewan chaplain recalled hearing of the benefits a casino brought to Windsor, Ont.

“They don’t tell you about the fellow who drove over to the police station, parked right outside the police station and blew his brains out,” Clay said.

“You may see some short-term sort of things, you give people jobs but the long-term consequences are just horrific,” Clay said.

“We shouldn’t be looking to a discredited means of producing money to enhance our city,” said Rev. Ivan Wilson, chair of the Inner City Council of Churches.

“We need a city that has values, a city that is compassionate and caring. And those of us who pay taxes have the privileges and the responsibility to create such a society. Not to create it on the backs of the poor, the unemployed and people who are driven to such an extent that they can’t care for themselves.”

Eric Stolte of the Evangelical Ministers Fellowship agreed.

“If we’re going to build a strong economic base for Saskatoon and thereby balance the government books, it has to be based on employment that has real value, not just quick fix value,” Stolte said.

Bishop Albert LeGatt, who represents about 90,000 people in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon, which extends outside of the city limits, said that while it may be difficult for people who want governments to balance their books to reject gambling on moral grounds, they must rise to the challenge of finding other ways to pay for the benefits of society.

“Before we rush into this and say here’s a way to balance the books, we need to have a better look at just what are the consequences of it. There are other ways of seeing to the needs of our society, providing employment,” LeGatt said.

Religious leaders see the effects of gambling on people’s lives, Wilson said.

“We see people who have spent all they have and haven’t got food for their families, haven’t got food for their children. That’s a terrible thing.”

About 25 per cent of people in the Prairie provinces identify themselves as Christians belonging to the churches represented by the leaders, Stolte said.

“The letter is to the elected leaders. It represents the strong opinion of the people in our churches and their strong opinion is that gambling does not benefit our city, our community in any way. It takes away from that,” Stolte said.

Clay said he hopes the statement from the leaders will inspire individuals to tell elected leaders how they feel.

“The whole purpose of this viewpoint is we want people to rise up and say no we don’t want it. Let’s have letters pouring into the mayor’s office and city hall and people going to city council meetings. We just want to get the people of the city motivated, particularly the members of the Christian community we represent.”

The letter was signed by LeGatt, Wilson, Stolte, Clay, Joan Brown of the United Church of Canada, Rev. Allan Grundahl of the Sask. Synod, Lutheran, Rev. Syl Lewans, Saskatoon General Ministerial Association, Rev. Tom Morgan, Anglican Diocese of Saskatoon, Margaret Wilson, North Sask. Presbytery, Presbyterian, Ann Keffer, Prairie Centre for Ecumenism, Bruno Baerg, Mennonite Central Committee and Jay Cowsill, Society of Friends.

Posted: Dec. 17, 2001 • Permanent link:
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