Missouri's church leaders gather at Capital to
voice opposition to legislation to expand gambling

Church Leaders News Conference, Missouri State Capitol
April 23, 2002

Report by Mark Andrews, Casino Watch

This clergy event to highlight and oppose the impending expansion of gambling in Missouri drew TV, radio and newspaper media. Church leaders from across the State came together in total agreement on this issue. It was my pleasure to observe their News Conference and see first hand how churches in Missouri feel about the serious problems that gambling causes.

List of Clergy

The news conference was hosted and introduced by Peggy Eshelman, Formation and Social Justice Coordinator, United Methodist Church, representing Ann Brookshire Sherer, resident bishop, Missouri Area of The United Methodist Church who detailed the United Methodist tradition of opposition to gambling. She then introduced Rev. Tom Grey from the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling. Tom, pointed out how Missouri let in the 100 pound gorilla in 1994 when casinos opened in our State, but are now feeding the 800 pound gorilla that has developed and continues to ravage society and government. He bought several stuffed gorillas to illustrate the point.

Doug Madi, pastor, Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church in Oakville then began calling on church leaders to express the opinions of their denominations on gambling expansion. Each person had a somewhat different perspective but all came to the exact same conclusion, No More Gambling Expansion! All the attendees signed a Public Statement which was presented to the press. It is an outstanding statement which has brought together a group of clergy who would not normally spend time together.

Public Statement

The press stayed for the entire hour. Near the end, Sister Ruth Speh, School Sisters of Notre Dame in Lemay gave her remarks on the Governor's newly proposed casino game Quick Draw Keno, making the connection on how it will bring harm to our children. She then asked that at the end of the News Conference all attendees follow her upstairs to the Governor's office to present to him the 3000 plus petitions she had collected from individuals across the State in opposition to Quick Draw Keno.

Although his office asked that the petitions be delivered to the mail room instead of the office, Sister Ruth and her entourage which now included TV cameras with bright lights, poured into the Governor's office. She not only delivered the petitions, she also read her personal letter to Gov. Holden.

Jerry Nachtigal, the governor's spokesman, said Tuesday that Holden continued to push the loss limit and lottery proposals because, "We need every penny of revenue we can get for education in this very difficult budget year. The studies we have seen do not indicate there will be a significant increase in the number of problem gamblers."
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, by Virginia Young 4/24/02

Text of Sister Ruth's Letter

The importance of this event can be seen in the following day's news article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. KMOX Radio even carried some of the testimony from the News Conference on drive time radio. So the coverage was excellent.

As we have said many times in the past, this is an issue that crosses all lines, socially, politically, philosophically, and now theologically. Three cheers for Missouri's church leaders!