|Ballot initiatives draw United Methodist advocacy|
U.S. citizens line up at the Church of St. Paul and
St. Andrew United Methodist in New York to cast their vote on Election
Day. A UMNS photo by the Rev. James K. Karpen.
A UMNS Report
By Linda Bloom*
Nov. 7, 2008
Ballot initiatives on hot-button issues such as same-sex marriage,
casino gambling and state income taxes drew the attention of United
Methodists this U.S. election season.
United Methodists in Arkansas were dismayed that an amendment to the
state constitution to start a state-run lottery won voter approval by a
In a statement issued on election night, United Methodists Against
Gambling and the church’s Arkansas Conference expressed deep regret
about the outcome. "We felt, and continue to feel, that a state-run
lottery is not in the best interest of the people of Arkansas," the
"Our next step must be to persuade the legislature to reject
lotteries or, at the least, severely restrict them, while finding other
revenue to fund college scholarships," said Scott Trotter, an attorney
and co-chairperson of United Methodists Against Gambling with the Rev.
In Ohio, a ballot measure to permit casino gambling was voted down for the fourth time since 1990.
United Methodist Bishop Bruce Ough and members of the denomination’s
West Ohio Conference, commended Gov. Ted Strickland, a former United
Methodist pastor, for his opposition to gambling and had called for a
"no" vote on that issue. The conference represents nearly 1,200
congregations in 58 Ohio counties.
"I am dismayed and outraged at the repeated, relentless and reckless
efforts to expand gambling in Ohio," Ough said at a Sept. 25 press
conference. "With blatant disregard for the citizens of Ohio who have
consistently and resoundingly said 'no' to the expansion of gambling,
the gambling industry has once again mounted a well-funded campaign to
introduce casino gambling to our state."
United Methodists also supported Strickland’s signing of a tough new
law that limits the interest rates which payday lending institutions can
charge Ohio citizens. That law was supported under another ballot
In Maryland, less than a day after voters approved a referendum to
amend the state constitution to allow slot machine gambling, Baltimore
officials proceeded with a $4.1 million purchase of land for a casino,
which will be built south of downtown.
United Methodists from the Peninsula-Delaware Conference joined
church members in the Baltimore-Washington Conference in the attempt to
defeat the slot machine proposal, following the denomination’s official
opposition to gambling.
Bishop Peggy Johnson of the Philadelphia Area and Bishop John Schol, of
the Washington Area, who both oversee churches in parts of Maryland,
were among religious leaders signing an Oct. 23 statement opposing the
slot machine referendum.
The Rev. Christine Elliott introduces speakers at a
community forum held at Calvary Church United Methodist in Arlington,
Mass., on a proposal to
eliminate the state's income tax.
A UMNS photo courtesy of the United Methodist New England Conference.
"Introducing slots into our state sends a message that dollars are
precious and people are expendable," the statement said. "This is not
true. Marylanders will work creatively together to insure children are
educated and fed without gambling revenue. In fact, gambling revenue
will worsen the plight of children, youth and adults within Maryland by
increasing addiction, divorce and poverty."
Massachusetts voters soundly defeated a ballot question that would
have eliminated the state’s income tax. United Methodists in the state
worked with the Massachusetts Council of Churches and other groups to
educate citizens about why the tax should not be dropped and secure
pledges for a "no" vote.
Calvary Church, United Methodist, in Arlington, for example, worked
with the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization to hold community forums
on the issue and collect pledges. "This is a justice issue, a moral
issue," the Rev. Christine Elliott stated. "The drastic cuts to services
required if this measure passes would affect children and the most
vulnerable and at-risk citizens in our commonwealth."
Same-sex marriage ban
In California, voters approved a ban on same-sex marriage after the
State Supreme Court there had declared such marriages legal last May.
Same-sex civil unions still will be allowed in California, and Attorney
General Jerry Brown said he believed the marriages already performed
will remain valid, according to The New York Times.
The United Methodist Church opposes same-sex unions and forbids its
pastors from performing such ceremonies or allowing them to take place
in United Methodist churches.
When the denomination’s Western Jurisdictional Conference met last
July, however, it passed a resolution celebrating the California court
decision. The resolution stated, in part, that the conference supports
"same-gender couples who enter into the marriage covenant and
encourage(s) both congregations and pastors to welcome, embrace and
provide spiritual nurture and pastoral care for these families."
In June, the church’s California-Pacific and California Nevada
conferences, which are part of the Western Jurisdiction, passed
resolutions supporting clergy who choose to perform same-sex marriages.
Bishop Beverly Shamana ruled the California-Nevada statement to be void.
Later, the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference, meeting during the
same week as the Western, voiced support for those clergy as well.
Voters in Arizona and Florida also approved bans on same-sex marriage.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Opponents of lottery not giving up fight just yet
Church leaders welcome Obama, urge prayers
Methodist bishops celebrate election, pray for Obama
Western Jurisdiction challenges homosexuality stance
No Casino Maryland
United Methodists Against Gambling (Arkansas)
CNN: Ballot measures