A fight in Prince George’s County is heating up, and it’s pitting a group of Black pastors against local businessmen. Specifically, some African-American religious leaders are upset because Maryland lawmakers recently passed legislation to allow casino gaming in the state, fearful that gambling will corrupt already struggling communities.
Hamil R. Harris at the Washington Post’s religion blog, Under God, reports:
On Wednesday, Gov. Martin O’Malley signed legislation that would allow a Las Vegas-style casino into the county.
“I feel disappointed but not disheartened,” said the Rev. Jonathan Weaver, pastor of the Greater Mount Nebo African Methodist Episcopal Church in Bowie. “I recognize how the system works in Annapolis."
The bill places the slots issue into the hands of voters.
“We continue to aggressively oppose slots. Now there will be a referendum and the faith community will really push for people to stand up,” Weaver said.
The Black faith leaders say they don’t want the casinos in the state out of concern for community safety. Rev. Nathaniel Thomas told the Post, “What are we going to do in terms of rehabilitating those with drug addiction in this state as oppose to just locking up young men? Where are the recreation facilities in the county, I am not talking about big facilities that you have to drive to but local community centers?” Thomas also said that allowing the casinos into the state is a question of “morality.”
While it’s certainly nice to see that Black faith leaders are keeping the interests of their parishioners in mind, it’s disheartening to see them try to ban things in order to help people. Aiding communities in need is different from not allowing things that could potentially be bad for those communities.
For instance, while liquor stores are certainly not a great thing to have in poor Black neighborhoods, I wouldn’t want to live in a nation where alcohol was banned for poor Black people. It takes away from personal freedoms, but it also tacitly suggests that there aren’t some people living in poverty who can handle themselves around liquor.
If casinos do begin popping up in Maryland, there will be some people who become addicted to gambling. Pastors worth their salt wouldn’t try to eliminate temptations. They would simply be prepared to help people who find themselves in need. Even God knew to leave the apple for Adam and Eve.
These views do not necessarily reflect those of the BET Networks.
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