Religious leaders condemn slots

Saturday, March 8, 2003

BALTIMORE -- Religious leaders are growing more vocal in their opposition to a proposal by Gov. Robert Ehrlich to bring 10,500 slot machines to four racetracks.

The United Methodist Church, Ehrlich's own denomination, is urging its 700 Maryland ministers to preach against the slots.

And the Central Maryland Ecumenical Council, which represents 16 Christian denominations, sent a strongly worded anti-gambling letter to state legislators last month.

"I hope it rallies the troops," said the Rev. Erik Alsgaard, spokesman for the Baltimore-Washington conference of the United Methodist Church. "The people in the pews need to get active on this issue.

Ehrlich said Feb. 28 that his church and others have the right to oppose slots, but their position doesn't sway him. He said revenue from slots is crucial to closing the budget's $1.8 billion shortfall.

"I have many pastors, many ministers -- regardless of religion -- who support slots," said Ehrlich, who attends church regularly.

But the Ecumenical Council called the slots plan a "tempting quick fix" that comes at the expense of the poor and of gamblers "whose addiction has inflicted pain on themselves and their families."

Also opposing the plan are the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Church of the Brethren, the United Church of Christ, the Episcopal Diocese, the Evangelical Lutheran Church, American Baptist Churches of the South and the Church of Christ, Scientist.

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