This week's edition of "The 3" shines the spotlight on gambling arrests in Alabama, arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court concerning the rather acerbic Westboro Baptist Church protesters, and a throng gathering in Atlanta to be motivated to be a "catalyst".
3 - 11 indicted in gambling probe in Alabama
This Monday, Federal officials were dispatched throughout the state of Alabama to arrest 2 casino owners, 1 casino spokesman, 4 state senators, 3 lobbyists, and a legislative employee. They were indicted in association with activity surrounding the passage of a bill in the Alabama Senate (SB 380) that would have legalized electronic bingo in selected locations in the state, pending a statewide vote. The first version of the bill failed to reach the 21 votes necessary to move forward, but it was reintroduced and passed with exactly 21 votes.
The Alabama Citizens Action Program, or ALCAP, had been involved in opposing the attempt to legalize what they and other Christian organizations across the state regarded to be illegal. And, in fact, the activities of the Governor's Task Force on Illegal Gambling and supportive AL Supreme Court decisions have eliminated the presence of electronic slot machines at all locations, except the Indian casinos in the state. ALCAP posted this report from the Birmingham News on its website.
Gambling represents a regressive tax on society, and punishes the poorest among us. Gambling addicts present a tremendous cost to society, and the economic implications on families are potentially devastating. For some time, Christian leaders have cited the corrupting influence associated with gambling activity, and if these current allegations are proven, it will support what has been contended for some time in Alabama. Corruption surrounding gambling has in fact been proven in other instances. The organization, Stop Predatory Gambling, has published this "white paper" on the relationship of gambling and corruption.
2 - U.S. Supreme Court considers church protest case
The U.S. Supreme Court is back in session, and one of the notable cases is one that concerns religious freedom and free speech. In the Snyder vs. Phelps case, the father of a Marine who lost his life in Afghanistan is alleging that he was offended by the presence of protesters from the Westboro Baptist Church, whose pastor is Fred Phelps. Westboro congregation members attend various functions, including military funerals, basically contending that military members lost their lives because America is under God's judgment because of the sin of homosexuality. Using unsavory signs and comments, the Westboro devotees are offensive in their approach, but a central question in the Supreme Court case is whether or not the Constitution restricts certain types of speech just because someone finds that speech offensive. Here is the setup from Liberty Counsel.
Again, there are definite free speech concerns here - if Westboro members are restricted from their protests, then that precedent could that be applied to other forms of free speech, such as pro-life individuals and groups who peacefully demonstrate at abortion clinics. Public expressions of faith could be found to be restricted if someone finds those expressions offensive. So, even though the Westboro group is considered by many to be deplorable, nevertheless they have a constitutional right to free speech, and hopefully, a ruling from the high court will continue to uphold our free expression rights.
1 - Catalyst draws thousands to energize leaders
For many years, the Catalyst Conference has gathered in Atlanta to creatively inspire and encourage Christians to be passionately and creatively influential. It's commonly thought that the conference falls under the banner of "leadership training", but when you consider that all of us have the potential to have an effect on others, then it's not necessary that a person showing up to Catalyst is officially in a leadership position.
High-profile Christian speakers, such as Andy Stanley, Beth Moore, Craig Groeschel, Francis Chan, and others, instructed the crowd of some 13,000 at the Arena at Gwinnett Center in the greater Atlanta area. Additionally, people involved in such noble causes as fighting human trafficking and providing clean drinking water in third-world countries, caused attendees to examine how they are helping to address the needs of people less fortunate, activated by the love of Christ. Here is the report from The Christian Post.
Again, the conference has the potential to not only motivate those who attend, but then those who have been to the event can go back into their communities and have a distinct influence for the sake of the gospel.
Churches celebrate Clergy Appreciation Month
Business booming for cookie store in Indiana that rejected order for gay activist event
Vermont license plate ruling protects religious references