THE Bahamas Christian Council has lashed out at DNA leader Branville McCartney following his claim the church is too focused on opposing the legalisation of gambling for Bahamians.
Council president Ransford Patterson said he and his colleagues were “quite disappointed” in Mr McCartney, who in a Tribune interview last week, said he finds it amazing that so much effort and energy is being put into the “vote no” campaign, when the country is plagued with so many social issues the church should be addressing.
“Mr McCartney should be careful not to assume that just because the church is not in front of a camera to publicise what we are doing that nothing is being done,” said Rev Patterson.
“Secondly, the church is not just the pastors who speak out publicly, but include tens of thousands of members who are on the front-lines of ministry throughout this country, some on a daily basis although their good deeds will never be known by men.”
He said in addition to numerous schools, nurseries and pre-schools, churches run programmes that feed thousands a day, as well as shelters, after-school programmes, clothing programmes, and counselling services for victims of child abuse and incest.
“This is why our church people are spread out and strategically mobilised to tackle these issues as school and guidance counsellors, why they serve on the National Child Protection Council, the Juvenile Court, and the Crisis Centre, where they receive those desperate phone calls in the middle of the night,” he said.
“Truth be told, if the church were not doing its job, our society would have collapsed under the awful weight of human vice long ago.”
When it comes to the referendum on legalising gambling, Rev Patterson said: “We deal with vice on a daily basis and therefore have the moral authority to speak candidly to this vice that others are seeking to nationalise. Who better than the church to speak to the issue, we ask?”
He asked if Mr McCartney is implying that numbers bosses be allowed to spend $3 million on advertising to mislead the public on the “virtues” of the gambling industry, while conveniently overlooking the already devastating social consequences.
“Is he suggesting that we, the church, who know better, not be allowed to have an educational campaign to get the truth out about how the legalising of the numbers houses and a national lottery would further ruin and further corrupt our society?
“We are mystified that Mr McCartney, a politician and a businessman, would have trouble with us launching an educational campaign.
“Every business establishment knows the value of a promotional campaign to get their product known, and every political organisation also knows the need to put on a campaign to get their message out.
“He should therefore not be surprised that the Bahamas Christian Council has launched an educational campaign to enlighten the Bahamian people given the devastating weight of this issue.”
Rev Patterson said the educational campaign has focused on seven reasons why Bahamians should vote against legalising numbers and a national lottery:
• They violate our national values.
• They hurt the most vulnerable.
• They produce social problems.
• They promote negative lifestyles.
• They increase crime.
• They harm the economy.
• They dishonour God.
“So to Mr McCartney and all those who attack the church for merely seeking to educate and warn the Bahamian public of the danger of voting yes, please note that we are not going to be silent while others call wrong right and right wrong,” he said.
“Finally, as voting Bahamian citizens we have a right to articulate our position, especially since we ‘have a horse in this race’ – the future well being of the Bahamian people whom we are called to serve.”