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Pastors Opposed to Casino Plan Unites

Wednesday, June 28 marked the first organized religious opposition made public regarding the proposed Choctaw tribe casino. At least twelve local pastors were present in the Jackson County meeting held in front of the planned construction site.

"We're saying Yes to Families, and No to Casinos'," said Carl King, chairman of the newly-formed Jackson County United for Families. King is the associate pastor of Crossroads Church for Nazarene, and he is also the one who called for the meeting.

"We want to know who we have on board, what our theme is and the approach we need to take," he said.

The Choctaw tribe began the legal process of obtaining permission for their proposed casino in May, to be situated in nearly 100 acres of land.

Local pastors from the area including Baptists, Methodists, The Assembly of God and those from other independent churches were present at the Wednesday meeting. It was their consensus to take a pro-family stand on the matter of the casino.

"We want to protect the sanctity of families," said vice-chairman of the committee and senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Ocean Springs Dr. Michael Barnett.

"I can give you countless testimonies of people who have been victimized by gambling," Barnett said. "I've talked to a young mother who can't buy diapers because her husband has gambled their money away. I've talked to husbands who say their wives have an annual $35,000 gambling habit."

The other pastors have provided more input regarding the matter, but they stand as one on their mission to protect the community against the evils of having the casino.

"Personally, I think gambling is destructive to the home and the family," missionary for the Jackson County Baptist Association Charles Rodgers said. "The gambling away of vital income separates the family and keeps them from doing family-type things together."

"Gambling creates a welfare mentality," said Palma Chandler, founding bishop of Calling All Christians Church. "It encourages addiction to alcohol and discourages faith in God. As pastors, it's our obligation to share the truth with people."

"Our God-given responsibility is to sound the alarm when anything is destructive to our families," senior pastor of Crossroads Church of the Nazarene Ted Pagle said.

Rodgers expects that their number will grow fourfolds by their next meeting scheduled on July 12. He urged the group to come up with reasons why they should oppose the construction of the casino for the next meeting.

"Any message we put out there, we need to back it up with data," he said. "We have to be clear."

The Choctaws has not made any comment on the casino opposition issue at present. However, the tribe has previously mentioned that they will not push through with the plan if it meets strong opposition from the community.




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