BY ROGER ALFORD ©2014 Baptist Press
Major secular newspapers
have run stories in recent weeks focusing on why a proposal to legalize casino
gambling didn't make it out of Kentucky's General Assembly again this year.
They appeared to conclude that strong Baptist influence in Frankfort doomed the
USA Today, the Courier-Journal of Louisville and the Cincinnati Enquirer reported that Baptists make up
more than 1 million of the Kentucky's 4.4 million population, and that almost
half the state Senate and more than one-third of the House identify as
Baptists have long opposed casinos, saying they prey on human weakness for
profit and that they would especially hurt Kentucky's poor who might be lured
into losing the little money they have in hopes of a big payoff.
The newspapers reported that Baptists hold an abundance of key leadership
positions in both the House and Senate, including Gregory who is chairwoman of
the Senate Enrollment Committee. Baptists in leadership positions have had a
noticeable impact on what gets through the state legislature.
"It's no surprise that myself and many other legislators cast votes that
reflect our religious beliefs," Sen. Sara Beth Gregory, a Baptist from
Monticello, said. "These votes are not only a reflection of ourselves, but
of the people we represent in our districts. Our values guide us as
legislators, and I believe our constituents expect that to be the case. That's
why they elected us -- to be their voice in Frankfort."
The newspapers credited Baptist influence with passage of Kentucky's ban on gay
marriage in 2004, as well as Gov. Steve Beshear's inability to get legislative
approval for a constitutional amendment on gambling that he's been pushing hard
for the past six years.
Beshear has pushed casino legislation every year since he became governor in
Kentucky Baptist Convention Executive Director Paul Chitwood has played a lead
role in opposing casinos.
Chitwood's offensive strategy this year included advertising on Christian radio
stations, devoting time to secular talk radio, and communicating directly with
the Kentucky Convention's 750,000 members about the gambling issue through a
video sent to Baptist churches across the state.