Churches vs. Guv Ted, the former Minister at the Church of What’s Happening Now
From the Youngstown Vidincator:
Church groups vowed to fight Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland’s plan to place video lottery terminals at the state’s seven horse racetracks, saying they’ll launch legal actions and grass-roots efforts to ensure “slot machines do not prey upon our fellow citizens.”
Mahoning Valley churches are siding with the Ohio Council of Churches, saying that allowing the terminals could send too many people down a slippery slope toward addiction.
“Some people can do that sort of thing once a year, and they’re fine with it. Then there are those where it opens the door to an actual addiction. It’s like a monster,” said Pastor Mary Hall, who runs an addiction support group at the Fifth Avenue Community Church in Youngstown.
“I have people who struggle with gambling, drugs, alcohol and that sort of thing,” Hall said. “It will bring in a whole lot more. I guess my class will grow bigger.”
At the Glenwood Primitive Methodist Church in Boardman, churchgoers have been politically active in the past by sending postcards and writing letters to Congress about abortion and the rights of parents, but it typically takes the approach of helping people after a decision has been made, said Pastor Nathan Doyle.
“We take the approach of ‘it’s happened… we need to educate people against it and about how it’s an addicting, life-shattering behavior,” he said.
Tom Smith, public policy director for the Ohio Council of Churches, and the Rev. John Edgar, chairman of the United Methodist Anti-Gambling Task Force, said Strickland’s executive directive and language included by lawmakers in the recently passed biennial budget were unconstitutional. They also say slots wouldn’t generate the nearly $1 billion officials are banking on to fill a budget gap.
Ted Strickland often promoted his rather unimpressive resume during the 2006 election, which included working as a Methodist Minister. But Ted was never one to allow his religion to get in the way of his committeed liberalism, as his response to a Dayton Daily News candidate survey noted he “rarely attends” church.
As someone who has helped my church raise money through bingo nights, I’m not going to condemn gambling on a moral basis. But it is offensive that Ted Strickland thinks it is fiscally responsible to try to plug budget holes with schemes which have repeatedly proven to underperform.
But regardless of their reasons for suing, the law is on their side, as the Ohio Constitution explicitly requires all gambling money to be spent on higher education. This, of course, is a sham as money is fungible and it is simply a matter of accounting to reduce the amount education recieves out of the GRF. However, there is no question that Ted Strickland’s executive order for slot machines is NOT going to education.
Here is the relevant part of the state constitution:
§ 15.06 Lotteries, charitable bingo
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Except as otherwise provided in this section, lotteries, and the sale of lottery tickets, for any purpose whatever, shall forever be prohibited in this State.
The General Assembly may authorize an agency of the state to conduct lotteries, to sell rights to participate therein, and to award prizes by chance to participants, provided that the entire net proceeds of any such lottery are paid into a fund of the state treasury that shall consist solely of such proceeds and shall be used solely for the support of elementary, secondary, vocational, and special education programs as determined in appropriations made by the General Assembly.
The General Assembly may authorize and regulate the operation of bingo to be conducted by charitable organizations for charitable purposes. (SJR 9; Adopted November 3, 1987, effective January 1, 1988).
(Amended, effective November 5, 1975; HJR No.16.)
However, the Ohio Supreme Court does not have jurisdiction over the education issue. And as this question was not in the budget, Strickland’s directive could be challenged on a number of other levels- For example, exclusionary grounds, as only 7 racetracks will have slots, instead of grocery stores and 7-11s which currently sell lottery tickets.
A prominent Republican strategist thinks that his directive could easily be defeated in a lower court, and the legislature would then enact a temporary sales tax. Penn National, the gambling interest pushing the next ballot issue, has a lot to gain by this tax, as its repeal could be tied to the passage of the ballot issue. (ie, Vote for casinos, and lower your taxes!) And Republicans and safe districts, in the Ohio Senate, would probably gladly vote for the ballot issue as: 1) gambling interests get what they want, 2) Ted Strickland becomes Ohio’s tax-hiker-in-chief.
This scatter-shot approach by moralists like Zanotti and churches doesn’t seem to be well organized. And if they do become organized and find powerful lawyers to fight for their cause, they might end up raising taxes and accidentally helping the same gambling interests they oppose. The problem remains that the jurisdictional and legal issues involved here makes for a very cloudy and complex situation- This battle should be fascinating to watch.
And no matter what happens, Chris Redfern will become even wealthier.