By TANEKA THOMPSON
Tribune News Editor
THREE pastors issued a strong “rebuke” of the Christie administration over its “immoral” decision to pass gambling legislation despite the results of last year’s gaming referendum.
In a lengthy missive released on Saturday, pastors Lyall Bethel, Cedric Moss and Allan Lee charged that the government would incur the wrath of God for its decision.
They also accused the government of “betraying” the Constitution’s preamble by making webshops legal.
“Mr Prime Minister, we believe God has waited for you and your government to either abandon your reckless course of action or to store up His wrath against your unprincipled and immoral decision to ignore the voice of the people despite your solemn promise to heed it,” they wrote. “However, you and your government have decided to store up God’s wrath against yourselves. Accordingly, we state for the record that you have not gotten away with this heinous act; God will have the last say in this matter. We leave you to His righteous judgment, and judge He will.”
The religious leaders also hit out at “obnoxious” and “irrelevant” statements made by Prime Minister Perry Christie and Deputy Prime Minister Philip Davis during debate on the gambling legislation.
“During the debate, we heard the ungracious and irrelevant comments from Prime Minister Christie that ‘no religious leader can give him a passport to heaven,’” the pastors wrote. “What does going to heaven have to do with this public debate? Why did the prime minister not instead focus on giving the Bahamian people a credible explanation for ignoring the results of the gambling referendum?
“DPM Davis on the other hand inexplicably stooped to the lowest level and tried to cast aspersions on the pastors leading the charge against gambling by questioning whether we had numbers accounts, if we had received money, and if the real concern was whether gambling proceeds make it into the collection plates.”
The pastors stressed that they have not had financial dealings with web shop operators and again called on the nation’s leaders to disclose if they have.
The pastors also said they were shocked by the prime minister’s admission that the government accepted money from “illegal” numbers houses to pay for gambling consultants.
The pastors also said they were “disappointed” that Minister of Social Services Melanie Griffin did not absent herself from the vote.
“Minister Griffin’s ministry (Social Services) already feels the effects of irresponsible living, and this reckless act will precipitate the further destruction of many homes that will overwhelm her ministry. Minister Griffin is old enough to know of the horror visited on this country during the reign of the Hobby Horse Racetrack.
“To our beloved sister in Christ we say that this gambling bill was a principled matter worth resigning over if need be, as was demonstrated by the late Carlton Francis, who like you was a minister in the government and in the church.”
The pastors added that while there is no biblical command that prohibits gambling, the practice goes against biblical doctrine that says to love your neighbour and work for a living.
“Gamblers violate all of these commands because they seek to profit at the expense of their neighbours who must lose in order for them to win (a lack of love), they seek to earn money through chance (rather than work), and they demonstrate discontentment with what they have by their greedy willingness to incur the certain risk of financial loss in order to get a chance of winning much more, despite the fact that the odds against winning are stacked up against them.”
The pastors said they watched the “carnival-like” parliamentary debate on the legislation with “broken hearts.”
Legislation that would regulate web shops and give hotel based casinos more offerings was passed in the Senate last week.
Several religious leaders, including Bahamas Christian Council President Rev Ranford Patterson, are against the move and have urged the government to respect the 2013 referendum.
That non-binding poll asked voters if they supported the regulation and taxation of web shops and the creation of a national lottery.
The majority of people who voted said “no” to both questions, however less than 50 per cent of the electorate showed up at the polls.
The prime minister initially said he would abide by the results of the referendum, but later said his government had to regulate web shops after concerns were raised by the Central Bank of the Bahamas.