Bishop says church’s stance on gambling hypocritical

Bishop says church’s stance on gambling hypocritical

Nadine Wilson

Monday, February 06, 2012

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A prominent member of the clergy believes that the country stands to gain economically from Sunday horse racing, and has raised questions regarding the church's continued opposition to gambling.

Head of the Emmanuel Apostolic Church and past chairman of the Jamaica Pentecostal Union, Bishop Everton Thomas, said the current furor over the resumption of Sunday horse racing has raised a number of questions as it relates to the "selective morality" of the church.

"When is the church going to wake up and 'smell the coffers', and realise that there is significant economic benefit to be gained for Jamaica from this kind of entertainment, gaming, aka gambling? he asked in an article submitted to the Observer.

"Another important question is how can the church be claiming to have moral authority when it has experienced so many failings? And what has the church got to say about the huge sums of money it placed in unregulated investment schemes? Isn't that the heights of hypocrisy? After all, many see that as a form of gambling," he said.

Bishop Thomas pointed out that not everyone who gambled was an addict, but those who did should know that the benefits gained were wrong. He said the practice violated work ethics, was motivated by greed and took advantage of the weaknesses of others.

"It leads to unsavory companions and others who are motivated by greed and covetousness. It leads to those who are quick to take advantage of others, such as bookies, loan sharks, etc. It leads to addiction in many cases. Gambling can become psychologically and physically addictive," he said.

Despite these possible effects, however, he said he was not calling for a ban on horse racing.

"I want to go on record that I am not calling for a ban on Sunday racing. And neither am I calling for a ban on any other day or on any other gaming or gambling activity. People must be free to make choices but should be aware of the consequences," he said.

However, the bishop said that while the church had not always spoken out on matters affecting the society, the institution had a right to be heard as an equal stakeholder as it fulfilled its prophetic and pastoral role.

"If she speaks, she is damned. If she does not, she is damned. So, she might as well speak. She has to speak for her purpose is to herald the good news and sound the alarm of impending danger. But when the Church speaks prophetically or pastorally, she is acutely aware of the possibility of losing her head like John the Baptist," he said.

He said while the church could not impose standards of morality on the society, she was a necessary agent of change and her influence was non-negotiable.

"The nation is not compelled to follow her advice nor to accept her teachings but while the church takes responsibility for and correct her shortcomings, she must continue to sound the alarm and warn people that 'all that glitters is not gold'," he said.

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