Baptists credited with defeating push to legalize marijuana

LOUISVILLE – Kentucky Baptists won a major legislative victory by helping to defeat a measure in the General Assembly that would have legalized marijuana.

Ky CapitolLawmakers concluded the 2015 legislative session early Wednesday morning without passing legislation that would have essentially bypassed the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and made marijuana widely available for medical purposes.

Kentucky Baptist Convention Executive Director Paul Chitwood had called on lawmakers to reject the proposal, saying Kentucky shouldn’t follow the lead of other states that have legalized marijuana.

The KBC, the state’s largest religious organization, has a powerful voice in Kentucky, where 1 million of the state’s 4.4 million residents identify themselves as Southern Baptists. Those demographics filter into the state legislature, where almost half the Senate and a third of the House identify themselves as Baptists.

“The success we had this year was, in large part, thanks to the stand Dr. Chitwood took on this issue,” said Ed Shemelya, coordinator for the National Marijuana Initiative, an organization that opposes legalization of pot. “I appreciate his courage and leadership on this issue.”

Shemelya said the fight isn’t over because lawmakers are certain to be asked to pass the legislation when they reconvene next January.

“We’re already getting ready for next year,” Shemelya said. “There’s no doubt in my mind that this matter will be back again. If we can beat it down next year, we may be able to put this to rest.”

Supporters of medical marijuana insist the drug can be used effectively to treat symptoms of various maladies. Opponents, including Chitwood and Shemelya, point out that lots of FDA-approved drugs provide better treatment for ailments, and that marijuana use can damage the lungs, immune systems and brains of long-term users. Most importantly, marijuana has not been shown, through careful study and testing, to be safe and effective enough for FDA approval.


Paul Chitwood

“It makes no sense to bypass the FDA and allow Kentuckians to smoke marijuana under the guise that it is somehow medically beneficial,” Chitwood said. “If derivatives of marijuana are ever approved by the FDA to be safe and effective, by all means, we would support their legalization. Obviously that hasn’t happened yet. To the contrary, we know that marijuana is a gateway drug that often leads its users to even harder drugs that are claiming thousands upon thousands of lives through overdose.”

House Speaker Greg Stumbo sponsored a bill that would have allowed Kentuckians to obtain marijuana, but only with a doctor’s prescription. Already, nearly half of all U.S. states have passed similar legislation.

“I’d like to believe the prescription requirement in the bill would limit its use, but we have seen in the past how willing wayward doctors have been to hand out prescription narcotics,” Chitwood said in comments at the start of this year’s legislative session. “Thankfully, lawmakers saw this for what it was: another step in the push by pro-marijuana advocates to legalize marijuana altogether.”

Chitwood said his opposition isn’t because he lacks compassion for the sick, but because of all the problems and risks associated with marijuana use. “For now, we have so many drugs that are better options,” he said.


Kentucky Baptist leader opposes marijuana legalization

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Support Senate Bill 32 to curb the effects of payday loans

By Rick Hardison
Chair, KBC Committee on Public Affairs
Pastor, Great Crossing Baptist Church, Georgetown

I want to invite you to join me in an effort to curb the effects of the payday loan industry.

payday20loansPayday loans are “short-term” loans where borrowers get, say, $500 in cash, and two weeks later they have to give the lending company about $589 to settle the debt. If they don’t have the money, they can take out another loan – then another, and another, and so on. I recently went by a payday loan company in Georgetown and looked at the interest rates. They ranged from 300 percent to more than 500 percent APR (annual percentage rate).

This financial product is unwise and harmful because it traps borrowers in devastating cycles of debt. Scripture says, “The borrower is slave to the lender” (Proverbs 22:7), and that is particularly true with this type of loan. The average Kentuckian who gets one of these loans ends up having to take out 10 loans before he is able to pay it back completely. That’s 20 weeks in debt to a loan at more than 300 percent APR. Only 1 percent of borrowers succeeded in paying their loans back in first two weeks. Therefore, these loans are not short-term loans; they are long-term debt traps.

I regularly talk to people who are facing financial hardships – bankruptcy, eviction notices, no food in the pantry, utilities that are about to be cut off. When people are in a tight spot, they get desperate, and the payday loan industry leverages this desperation by offering products that are unwise and suck people in.

Therefore, I believe one way to love our neighbors is to provide consumers with protections against payday loans. The Kentucky Senate is currently considering a bipartisan piece of legislation (Senate Bill 32) that would cap interest rates for payday loans at 36 percent. Right now, Kentucky usury laws prohibit most companies from charging more than 36 percent, but payday loans have been given a special exemption. If passed, Senate Bill 32 would force payday lending companies to conform to the same rules everyone else already has to follow.

Here’s what I’m asking: First, please think about this issue and consider what loving your neighbor looks like. Second, consider calling the legislative hotline to express your support for Senate Bill 32. That number is (800) 372-7181. An operator will ask for your name and address, then will record and pass along your message. Please request that the message be delivered to Senate leadership, because that is who is currently keeping the bill from coming to the floor for a vote. It takes about one minute to make the call.

I realize some feel unsettled anytime a pastor mentions anything about the political world; I do, too. I am also aware that good Christians may disagree with this bill because it may feel like too much government regulation; or because people may lose their jobs; or because they may have seen positive examples where these loans actually helped someone for a time. Thus, I’m not trying to outline THE “Christian position” on payday lending.

But the Bible does call us to fight oppression, and the normal impact of these loans is to oppress and trap. So loving our neighbors sometimes means favoring laws that promote compassion and opportunity, not cycles of debt that seem impossible to escape.

For good reason, Kentucky Baptists passed a resolution in 2011 seeking to cap payday loans.

If you want to learn more about this issue, visit the Center for Responsible Lending’s website.

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Newspapers credit Ky. Baptists with gambling bill kill

Kentucky Baptist efforts urging opposition to gambling expansion coupled with strong Baptist influence in Frankfort have been cited by two large daily newspapers as the reason gambling bills can’t make it out of the General Assembly. From a story posted on

LOUISVILLE — Two of Kentucky’s largest newspapers have run stories probing why a proposal to legalize casino gambling didn’t make it out of the General Assembly again this year, concluding that strong Baptist influence in Frankfort doomed the idea.

The Courier-Journal and the Kentucky Enquirer reported that Baptists make up more than 1 million of the state’s 4.4 million population, and that almost half the Senate and more than one-third of the House identify as Baptists.

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, and that has had a noticeable impact on what gets through the state Legislature.

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 2007.

Kentucky Baptist Convention Executive Director Paul Chitwood has played a lead role in opposing casinos.

Chitwood’s offensive this year included advertising on Christian radio stations, devoting time to secular talk radio, and communicating directly with the KBC’s 750,000 members about the evils of gambling through a video sent to Baptist churches across the state.

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Chitwood, Hutcheson discuss gambling battle with ERLC’s Walker

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ERLC Analysis Points Out Criminal, Economic Impacts of Gambling

The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission has posted an excellent analysis piece on gambling.  Read it in its entirety here.

Kentucky political leaders have argued that gambling will be a boon to the economy. Evidence indicates otherwise. Some key points from the ERLC analysis:

Gambling Contributes to Crime and Corruption

The growth of crime in those states and cities that legalize gambling is easily demonstrated. The most comprehensive study to date concludes that after three or four years, counties with casino gambling experience increases in rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, auto theft, and human trafficking compared to counties without casinos.

Many careful studies on gambling point out frequent incidents of corruption related to gambling. Police are the most immediate targets for corrupting influences. Since police operate at the entry point of the criminal justice system, they are both more available and more desirable as targets of gamblers seeking to make payoffs and bribes. But gambling corruption is by no means limited to the police. Elected officials as well as individuals in the gambling business are also subject to the corrupting influence of gambling.

Organized crime benefits from the expansion of gambling as well. William Webster, a former FBI director, said, “I really don’t see how one can expect to run legalized gambling anywhere without serious problems . . . . Anytime organized crime sees an opportunity to put a fix on something, to get an edge on something, it’ll be there. And gambling is still the largest source of revenue for organized crime.”

Gambling Disrupts the Economy

Until recently, business and labor leaders have led many of the successful efforts to prevent gambling from entering states and communities because they realized that gambling is bad for the economy and especially bad for relatively low income laborers. Unfortunately, many current business and labor leaders have become either neutral or supportive of gambling because of its alleged economic benefits.

However, increased gambling always results in increases in unpaid bills, embezzlement, bankruptcy, and absenteeism from jobs. In addition, gambling does not help a state’s economy in any appreciable way. A lottery returns to the state an average of only about 32 cents of every dollar taken in. The remainder goes to prizes and administration. In only three or four states does the revenue from lotteries, casinos, pari-mutuel betting, and any other existing forms of gambling contribute more than 3 percent to a state’s total budget. The minimal contribution that gambling makes to a state’s economy is more than offset by the social and personal problems it creates.


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ERLC: How does your church address homosexuality?

inserra-quoteHow does your church address homosexuality?

The move to redefine marriage has advanced considerably in recent days. How do churches respond?

Dean Inserra, a member of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission’s Leadership Network Council, identifies four archetypical responses to addressing this massive cultural shift:

1. The Macklemore Church

The Macklemore Church just simply thinks the Bible is outdated, or just plain wrong on homosexuality. This church has been on the fringe left end of the spectrum, but recently exists in some traditional mainline circles. The Macklemore Church believes as long as one truly loves, then his or her sexual preference is a personal decision, and God is okay with that. Anything spoken against that is judgmental, and unlike Jesus who would think it is all the “same love.” Those who oppose this approach are also outdated and need to evolve with the times.

The issue, however, with the Macklemore Church is not sexuality. The issue is the Bible. There is zero confidence in the authority of the Bible, as inerrancy is mocked. As Macklemore raps in “Same Love” about those who have confidence in the authority of the Bible, “…we paraphrase a book written thirty-five-hundred years ago.”

The beliefs about sexuality held by the Macklemore Church are the least of their problems.

2. The “Wrecking Ball” Church

This is the “America is going to hell in a hand basket,” crowd. The pastor does not shy away from preaching on sexuality, but comes in like a wrecking ball, dropping bombs and mentioning homosexuality every single Sunday. There is zero controversy because all 87 people in the church agree 100%, with their Christian voter guide in hand, saying “amen preacher” after every sentence. The context seems to always be “America” rather than the gospel when discussing any issue of sexuality. This church could also easily be called the “Preaching to the Choir Church.” Good folks and faithful brothers, but fighting a culture war they don’t even realize they actually aren’t a part of, because nobody is listening.

3. The MC Hammer Church.

This Church is growing, innovative, has an amazing band, A-list “communicator,” is young, sexy and when it comes to the issue of homosexuality…

Can’t touch this.

After all, we have gay friends. Why is it that the only sin we can’t talk about with our friends if they are engaged in the sin, is homosexuality? This church usually affirms everything the Bible says about marriage, gender and sex, but outside of a “how to” marriage series every three months, they just aren’t going to touch anything about homosexuality. The fear of offending or upsetting the young base that makes up the majority of the attendance drives the bus.

Eventually one will have to understand that you can’t stay neutral on this issue. The idea that we want to “focus on Jesus” or whichever lines people use to excuse their silence will lead to perceived acceptance of homosexuality. They will also at some point, have to deal with the issue when a practicing homosexual wants to be in leadership, have the pastor perform a wedding ceremony, or embrace the lifestyle all together.

I believe the MC Hammers are the largest group of churches today.

4. The “Ring of Fire” Church.

I do not mean hell, fire and brimstone, but rather entering the most heated areas of discussion in today’s culture, based on biblical convictions that lead one to engage with kindness. There is a deep desire in the Ring of Fire Church to speak with clarity, out of being compelled by the love of Christ and to speak to areas where God has certainly not been silent. Gospel centrality is the key and driving force of these churches. Failing to communicate this is a big miss on an opportunity to make the riches of the gospel known, by neglecting visible portrait God painted for us and by the one flesh union between a husband and a wife. That visible portrait points us to the invisible reality of our union with Christ, in the relationship between Christ and his bride, which was purchased by his blood.

These churches seek clarity and speak with strong conviction, but are very careful of their approach and tone, out of awareness of their own personal failures with sexual sin, and out of love for those currently living in it. The gospel centrality also leads these churches to not believe the key issue is sex, but rather the changing of one’s heart toward Christ, that will then lead to repentance. There is not a crusade to win with the Ring of Fire Church, but hearts to be won, and a gospel to be proclaimed.

Ring of Fires also believe that the greatest human flourishing happens when we do things the way God created them to be, and therefore seek this common good in strengthening marriages by God’s design. They speak to cultural issues on sex because God has not been silent, and in those discussions is where the souls of men and women lie.

Read the full post here.

The ERLC Leadership Summit will address the gospel and human sexuality to equip pastors and church leaders to speak to these critical issues in their own congregations. This event will be held April 21-23, 2014, at the Southern Baptist Convention building in Nashville, TN.

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ERLC Leadership Summit will address human sexuality

leadsummitLOGOfinalWondering what recent court rulings on gay marriage might mean for your community and your ministry?

The Ethics and Religious Liberty Leadership Summit will address the gospel and human sexuality to equip pastors and church leaders to speak to these critical issues in their own congregations. This event will be held April 21-23, 2014, at the Southern Baptist Convention building in Nashville, TN.

Scheduled Keynote Speakers:

  • Russell D. Moore
  • J.D. Greear
  • Heath Lambert
  • Mark Regnerus
  • Kevin Smith
  • David Prince

From broken marriages to pornography to homosexuality, sexual confusion and sexual brokenness has ravaged our culture and can deteriorate the integrity of our churches.

Participants will explore how the gospel shapes our sexual identities, redeems sexual desire, and sets free those who are held captive to sin’s bondage. Listen to great speakers, participate in breakout sessions, connect with other leaders, and discover how your church and local congregations can be a beacon of hope, clarity, and restoration as the gospel is brought to bear on human sexuality. Space is limited for this conference, so make plans now to attend.

Learn more at:

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Judge strikes down portion of Ky. same-sex marriage ban

LOUISVILLE—The leader of the commonwealth’s largest religious body reacted with disappointment to news that U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II struck down Kentucky’s ban on recognizing valid same-sex marriages performed in other states.

“The news that District Judge John G. Heyburn usurped the will of Kentucky voters today is tragic and disappointing,” said Dr. Paul Chitwood, Executive Director-Treasurer of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.

“As Heyburn declares that the Commonwealth must recognize gay marriages performed in other states, the Constitution of Kentucky is being undermined. This decision moves us down the slippery slope toward launching Kentucky into moral chaos and depriving children of their innate need of both a father and a mother. I pray the appeals process will honor the Commonwealth’s constitution and protect her children.”

Kentucky voters passed a constitutional amendment in 2004 affirmed that “only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Kentucky.”

According to media reports, Heyburn did not rule that Kentucky must allow gay marriages to be performed in the state.

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Push to legalize casinos faltering

A legislative proposal to legalize casinos in Kentucky appears to be in serious trouble.

The Associated Press reported Monday night that Republican Caucus Chairman Dan Seum has told Capitol reporters the measure doesn’t have enough votes to pass.

Kentucky Baptist Convention Executive Director Paul Chitwood, who is leading a campaign against expanded gambling, said he’s pleased lawmakers are listening to their constituents.

“It may be too early to declare gambling legislation dead, but clearly it’s on life support,” Chitwood said. “Lawmakers realize that legalizing casinos is a bad idea because of the misery they’d bring to Kentucky. They’re also aware that voting for casinos could very well cost them re-election because so many Kentuckians oppose the idea. We’re aware that no bill is truly dead as long the legislature is in session, but we do hope that this one doesn’t survive.”

Seum, who has been pushing to get the gambling measure through the Senate, said he hasn’t given up.

The AP reported that Seum’s comments came after a private meeting in which Senate Republicans discussed the gambling issue.

Gov. Steve Beshear has been pushing expanded gambling as a revenue producer, but Kentucky lawmakers, most of whom are seeking re-election this year, have been reluctant to go along.

House Democrats have privately said they will only vote on a gambling bill after it has been passed by Senate Republicans.


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EDITORIAL: Anyone else tired of the expanded gambling issue?

The following editorial by Todd Deaton appears in this week’s edition of the Western Recorder.

Here we go again! It seems like this is the umpteenth time our governor and a small group of legislators have pushed for casinos in Kentucky, attempting to make them palatable by tying them to horseracing, education, the state’s budget or some other cause. But nothing has really changed: Casinos were wrong for Kentucky then, and they are wrong for Kentucky now.

Why? Casinos prey upon vulnerable persons-your relatives, coworkers, friends and neighbors. Casinos seek to rob the pockets of families and undermine legitimate area businesses that produce beneficial products and provide essential services for communities. What beneficial product does a casino produce? They foster gambling addictions which destroy people’s lives by taking away paychecks and possessions. Supporters try to console us since they may provide counseling to compulsive gamblers. Still, the counseling comes too late for some. The financial ruin and psychological damage has been done. All some would have us see, though, is the money the state’s coffers might gain. From where does all this money come, and at what cost to our communities?

Here are some key questions: Is there ever a special interest group or cause worth our government tying its financial welfare to that would make its association with a predatory industry that undermines the social and economic welfare of its citizens appropriate? For our government to profit, is it right for it to put some of its citizens in a position where they have to become big losers?

In a recent BP article, Joe Carter, director of communications for the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, observed that while casino gambling used to be associated with two resort destinations, Las Vegas and Atlantic City, 23 states now have commercial casinos. “Unlike the old Vegas-style resorts, the new regional casinos depend decisively on attracting gamblers who live in the region, who return frequently and who play modern slot machines,” Carter said. In other words, Kentucky’s casinos would be primarily preying upon local residents.

Citing a report of the Council on Casinos released last September, Carter also noted that problem gamblers account for 40 to 60 percent of slot machine revenues, and that people who live within 10 miles of a casino have twice the rate of pathological and problem gambling. Meanwhile, a survey of Gamblers Anonymous participants found that more than 26 percent had experienced gambling-related divorces or separations. Among other social consequences are a reduction in volunteerism, civic participation and family stability within 15 miles of a community where a casino is located. Is this really what we want for Kentucky?

For those of us who call ourselves Christians, how can we say with integrity that loving God and loving our neighbors in any way allows us to stand back and idly watch as someone fleeces them, so that their spouses leave them or their kids may go hungry, lack clothes or not receive adequate medical care? Is it still a “commonwealth” when a few are granted licenses to profit wildly at the great expense or total demise of others? Ethically, can God’s people turn a blind eye to this injustice?

“Are we our brother’s keeper?” some may counter. “Didn’t those compulsive gamblers choose to play ‘those games,’ despite knowing the consequences?” But it isn’t a game! High stakes are involved. Losing turns tragic all too quickly. Don’t we share some civic responsibility when we fail to speak out against social injustice and to decry the hardships that our leaders’ decisions may wreak upon Kentucky’s families?

Kentucky Baptists were victorious in efforts to stop seven casinos from entering the state in 2012 when a bill fell short in the Senate. “Gambling is a social justice issue that defines how it is that we love our neighbors and uphold the common good,” according to Russell Moore, now president of the ERLC. Calling gambling a form of “economic predation,” Moore, then a dean at Southern Seminary, wrote, “Gambling grinds the faces of the poor into the ground. It benefits multinational corporations while oppressing the lower class with illusory promises of wealth, and with (typically) low-wage transitory jobs that simultaneously destroy every other economic engine of a local community.”

Yet, the social costs of gambling have all been stated time and again. Every February for the past decade, perhaps two, it seems that I or other editors of the Western Recorder have written articles warning of the woes of expanded gambling. Our Kentucky Baptist Committee on Public Affairs continually has taken strong stands. “This issue keeps coming up year after year,” said KBC Executive Director Paul Chitwood, “and it’s time that the Christian majority in this state rises up and says ‘enough is enough.'”

This past week, Chitwood drew the attention of national media as he again urged Kentucky Baptists and other concerned citizens to become actively involved in opposing expanded gambling through 60-second radio spots aired across the state and in videos sent to KBC churches. “Where gambling is legalized, misery follows,” he warns, encouraging Christians to speak out against gambling legislation pending in the General Assembly. Download the video and show it to your congregation, Sunday School class, or small group; then encourage others also to oppose any attempt to expand gambling in Kentucky by calling the Legislative message line at (800) 372-7181. (WR)


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Tune In Alert: Chitwood on 800 WHVU in the a.m.

KBC Executive Director Paul Chitwood will be a guest on the Tom Roten Show on 800 WHVU (Huntington, WV) at 8:04 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 6 to discuss efforts to oppose the expansion of gambling in Kentucky.

Tune in to listen here.

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Ultrasound Bill Passes Senate Committee

Senate Bill 8, sponsored by Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, has passed through a key committee.

The legislation would add a requirement to Kentucky’s existing informed-consent law for an ultrasound to be performed and require that the physician simultaneously describe what is seen to the patient. Not performing the ultrasound would result in a penalty of up to $100,000 for a first offense and up to $250,000 for subsequent offenses.

Read the full story from the Louisville Courier-Journal.

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Chitwood Issues Call to Action on Gambling

LOUISVILLE–Kentucky Baptist Convention Executive Director Paul Chitwood is making his case against casinos in a double-barreled offensive intended to encourage evangelical Christians to speak out against gambling legislation pending in the General Assembly.

A bulletin insert is also available for download.

Chitwood is speaking directly to the 750,000 members of the Kentucky Baptist Convention through a video to be played in church sanctuaries across the state. And he’s reaching out to a broader Christian audience through an ad that will begin airing soon on Christian radio stations across Kentucky.

In each instance, he’s asking Christians to join in the fight against expanded gambling by calling their lawmakers and making their voices heard.

“Where gambling is legalized, misery follows,” Chitwood says in the ads. “And yet year after year, a small group of Kentucky politicians pushes to expand gambling in Kentucky, promising that it will be an economic boon – and it will be…to the casino operators eager to cash in on the misery of our fellow Kentuckians.


Script of radio ad:

Year after year, a small group of Kentucky politicians pushes to expand gambling in Kentucky, promising that it will be an economic boon – and it will be…to the casino operators eager to cash in on the misery of our fellow Kentuckians.

I’m a hunter, but Kentucky lawmakers should not be issuing “hunting licenses” that allow casino operators to prey on the most vulnerable among us. The law does not permit children to play to win in a casino. Let’s not pass a law that makes our children a sure bet to lose.

My name is Paul Chitwood, and I’m the executive director-treasurer of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Join me in raising your voice for justice.

Call the Legislative message line at 1-800-372-7181 and urge your legislators to oppose any attempt to expand gambling in Kentucky.

Script of video:

The social costs of gambling are well documented.

Where gambling is legalized, misery follows.

And yet year after year, a small group of Kentucky politicians pushes to expand gambling in Kentucky, promising that it will be an economic boon – and it will be…to the casino operators eager to cash in on the misery of our fellow Kentuckians.

I’m a hunter, Kentucky lawmakers should not be issuing “hunting licenses” that allow casino operators to prey on the most vulnerable among us. The law does not permit children to play to win in a casino. Let’s not pass a law that makes our children a sure bet to lose.

Join me in raising your voice for justice.

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KBC President Hutcheson Advocates for Families Adopting Children Internationally

The following is a press release issued by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.):


Last year, Senator McConnell met with Mr. and Mrs. Hutcheson and their grandchildren in his office in the U.S. Capitol. Several years ago, Senator McConnell’s office assisted the Hutcheson family with the adoption of Lemlem and Kashiku from Ethiopia. (Front, L-R: Lemlem and Kashiku Hutcheson. Back, L-R: Karen Hutcheson, Sen. McConnell, Chip Hutcheson)

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell announced today a bipartisan bill he cosponsored to make it easier for American families to adopt children was signed into law. The Accuracy for Adoptees Act requires federal agencies to defer to and recognize state court orders amending a child’s name or date of birth on government issued documents. This law ensures that when a child applies for a driver’s license, a job, Social Security card, and passport, one date of birth is recognized and used.

“As a proud co-sponsor of this bipartisan legislation, I am pleased that the Accuracy for Adoptees Act is now law. I hear from many Kentuckians who are struggling to adopt children internationally and have requested assistance from my office. This measure will help many of those families by reducing the burdensome red tape and making it easier for them to receive the clarity they need when adopting children internationally,” Senator McConnell said.

One family that contacted Senator McConnell was Chip and Karen Hutcheson of Princeton, Kentucky. Last year, they, along with their two adopted grandchildren, met with Senator McConnell in his office in the United States Capitol. During the meeting, Hutcheson advocated for further assistance pertaining to reconciling federal and state documents with conflicting birth dates for children adopted abroad.

Upon hearing the news the measure was signed into law, Mr. Hutcheson, publisher of The Times Leader and president of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, said, “I will be forever grateful for Senator McConnell’s efforts in helping pass this bill. This is common sense pro-family legislation that relieves a tremendous burden on families who adopt internationally. Senator McConnell’s efforts will help make it easier to adopt a child from another country, benefitting not only American families but many orphans around the world. We have two grandchildren who were adopted from Ethiopia, and one of them has an error on his birth certificate from that country. Now all the red tape will be eliminated in rectifying that situation so that he will have an accurate record throughout his life.”

The bipartisan bill was introduced by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Roy Blunt (R-MO). Other co-sponsors include: Sens. Landrieu (D-LA), Durbin (D-IL), Leahy (D-VT), Barrasso (R-WY), Enzi (R-WY), Vitter (R-LA), Rubio (R-FL), Flake (R-AZ), Boozman (R-AR), Inhofe (R-OK), and Kirk (R-IL). The legislation passed the House and Senate in December, 2013.

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Letter to the Editor: Reject Gambling

The following letter to the editor appears in the January 16, 2014 edition of the Courier-Journal. The letter was written by James A. Smith, Sr. of Louisville.

There are at least two good reasons Kentuckians should reject Gov. Steve Beshear’s latest attempt to introduce casino gambling to our state.

First, it’s terrible public policy to bring casinos to our state since expanded gambling always fails independent cost-benefit analyses. Earl Grinols, distinguished professor of economics at Baylor University, has calculated that the social costs to the government resulting from casino gambling is $3 for every $1 generated by the activity. Clearly, casinos will cost more than they will help.

Casinos should be rejected because it’s nothing less than evil that Gov. Beshear — and legislative supporters — would rely upon making their own citizens losers to pay the state’s bills. The gambler/citizen has to lose in order for the state to get its revenues. Indeed, it’s profoundly immoral that the governor in his Jan. 7 address argued casinos in the Bluegrass would keep our tax dollars from flowing “across our borders.” It’s incredible the governor would brazenly prey on his own citizens.

It’s bad public policy and exploitation of citizens to permit casinos in our state.


Consider writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper voicing your opposition to gambling expansion.

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Mohler, Prager, Douthat Set To Share Stage

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) — Three nationally renowned commentators with differing theological beliefs but common views on American culture will share a stage at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

On Jan. 28, a “Faith and Freedom in the Public Square” forum will feature Southern Seminary president R. Albert Mohler Jr., nationally syndicated radio show host Dennis Prager and New York Times columnist Ross Douthat.

Hashtag Productions and WORLD magazine, the nation’s largest Christian news magazine, are presenting the event. Warren Cole Smith, vice president of WORLD, will serve as emcee.

“The goal of this event is to allow three prominent voices in the public square — one Jewish (Prager), one evangelical Christian (Mohler) and one Catholic (Douthat) — to engage in an open, honest and entertaining dialogue” about the challenges of secularism and changing morality, said R.J. Moeller, organizer of the event and president of Hashtag Productions. “This is about asking and answering tough questions in a God-honoring and purposeful way.”

Moeller said the value of the event is “three of the most trusted voices on religion and culture in the nation are gathered together on one stage. It’s the convergence of great minds, each hailing from a different theological worldview, but finding common ground on the pressing issues of our day for all people of faith: religious liberty, decline of culture, the breakdown of the family and economic ‘justice.'”

In addition to being informative, the event promises to be entertaining, Moeller said.

“We hope, first and foremost, that people will leave our event having been entertained,” he said. “This seems to be almost an afterthought — if even a thought at all — in the minds of event/conference planners around the country these days.”

The forum with three commentators from diverse religious backgrounds can also model “what it looks like when those from different theological backgrounds come together for meaningful conversation and do it in such a way that is respectful without being weak or compromising,” Moeller said.

Moeller, an evangelical, added, “We should not minimize the differences we have with our Catholic and Jewish neighbors, but we should not let those differences blind us to the fact that we need each other. The world has seen first-hand in the last century what happens when good men and women remain silent. Rome is burning and the time for meaningful discourse among people of faith has arrived.”

The Louisville event will take place in Southern Seminary’s Alumni Memorial Chapel beginning at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25 for general admission and $15 for students with ID. A limited number of $100 VIP reserved seating tickets are available, which includes admittance to a 6 p.m. catered, pre-show reception with the speakers.

To purchase tickets and for more information, visit:

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Family Foundation: Gambling measure ‘DOA’

The Family Foundation  of Kentucky had this to say about Gov. Steve Beshear’s latest proposal to expand gambling:

LEXINGTON—The Family Foundation said that Gov. Steve Beshear’s proposal in tonight’s State of the Commonwealth address to seek another Constitutional amendment to expand gambling was unrealistic and at odds with many of his other proposals. “The General Assembly has told the casino industry ‘No’ about fifteen times now,” said Martin Cothran, spokesman for The Family Foundation. “We need to move on to other, more important issues.”

“The proposal to expand gambling is effectively dead on arrival in this session. There is a politically volatile situation in the House that is also going to make it very difficult to deal with any controversial issues this session. With Republicans within striking distance of a majority in the House, it would be political suicide for many members to vote on a measure that is going to make a lot of their constituents angry.”

Cothran pointed to House Speaker Greg Stumbo’s non-committal remarks on expanded gambling after the speech as further evidence of the poor chances the proposal has. “Speaker Stumbo wasn’t exactly cheerleading for the proposal. If the Speaker isn’t excited about the proposal, it’s hard to imagine the measure has much of a chance at all.”

If the Governor was really serious about issues like tax reform, Cothran said, he would leave the gambling issue alone this session. “If we get into another fight over gambling, it will suck up all the political oxygen needed to address tax reform or any other major initiative.”

The Governor also spent much of his speech on health care issues, which Cothran portrayed as a strange irony: “We’re wondering about the health benefits of thousands of Kentuckians sitting at slot machines at casinos with a cigarette in one hand and drink in the other. The governor bemoaned the state’s low standing in smoking and cancer. Why would he want to add gambling addiction to the litany of social problems in this state?”

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Chitwood expresses concern over new gambling push

In response to Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear’s State of the Commonwealth address Jan. 7, Paul Chitwood, executive director-treasurer of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, voiced his concern about the latest push to expand gambling in Kentucky.

“I’m disappointed that the governor is again pushing to legalize casinos in our state,” Chitwood said.

“This proposal, while garnished with false promises of a financial windfall for the state, allows casino operators to prey on human weakness for profit, and I urge our lawmakers to say no to this bad idea yet again.

“Kentucky’s children can’t play to win in the casino but they are a sure bet to lose if the governor gets his way,” he added.

For more from Chitwood, check out his latest post on his blog here.

Chitwood is calling on Kentucky Baptists to call the legislative message line at 800-372-7181 and leave a message with a secretary for legislators telling them to oppose any attempt to expand gambling.

The legislative message line is open Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. EDT.


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Guest Post: Baptists and the First Amendment

The following is a guest post from Steve Weaver, pastor of Farmdale Baptist Church in Frankfort, Ky. Steve is an adjunct professor of church history at Boyce College and Southern Seminary, and currently serves as a Research Assistant to the Director (Dr. Michael A. G. Haykin) of The Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies.

The post originally appeared on Weaver’s blog here.

I was recently travelling through Virginia and was amazed at the history that I saw at almost every turn. Driving on state highways from Fredericksburg to Monticello was like travelling in a time machine. First, we saw a sign marking the location where the legendary Confederate General “Stonewall” Jackson was accidentally shot by his own men, which resulted in the amputation of his left arm and eventually in his death because of pneumonia that developed in his recovery. Then we drove through the Civil War battlefields of Chancellorsville and the Wilderness. Markers along the highway indicated the location of various sites, including the home that served as General Robert E. Lee’s headquarters during the campaigns. As we made our way toward Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, we neared Montpelier, the home of James Madison. I had just finished telling my wife and kids about the role which Baptists played in the guarantee of religious liberty in the first amendment of our Bill of Rights when I saw a small park with a sign which labeled it as the “Leland-Madison Memorial Park.” I quickly pulled to the side of the road and led my family over to a monument commemorating the Baptist preacher John Leland’s role in the crafting of the first amendment.

Beneath the relief of John Leland, the monument reads:




We have the first amendment, in large part, due to the efforts of American Baptists such as Isaac Backus and John Leland. Leland, prominent Baptist preacher at the turn of the 19th century, had petitioned his Virginia legislator, James Madison, directly regarding his concern that more needed to be done to ensure religious liberty in the new country than the “Religious Test” clause of Article VI, paragraph 3 of the Constitution. Since Baptists represented a significant portion of the vote in Madison’s district, Leland’s threat to run for Madison’s seat in the House of Representatives resulted in a visit by Madison to his home. Coming out of that meeting was a compromise that included Leland agreeing not to run for Madison’s seat and Madison agreeing to champion Leland’s and his fellow Baptists’ concern for religious liberty. Madison kept his word and pushed for the Bill of Rights. Without Baptist involvement in the political process, it is at least possible that the protection of religious liberty from Congress would not exist.

Baptists have historically defended the principle of religious liberty. Since Baptists have always believed in churches made up only of professing, baptized believers, they have always rejected the idea of a state church union which results in a church composed of all citizens. In the sixteenth century, the European Anabaptists opposed the use of the sword to mandate matters of the conscience. Seventeenth-century proto-Baptists such as Thomas Helwys (in England)  and Roger Williams (in Colonial America) spoke directly to the governing authorities appealing for religious liberty. Baptists have always stood on the side of religious liberty for all. In fact, it was a group of Baptists in Danbury, CT, concerned about the infringement of the newly formed federal government upon the consciences of American citizens, to whom Thomas Jefferson responded in a letter with the famous expression of “separation of church and state” that has become such an important part of the American discussion concerning religious liberty. This expression was a summary of the rights guaranteed in the 1st amendment that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

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Guest Post: Baptists and Religious Liberty

The following is a guest post from Steve Weaver, pastor of Farmdale Baptist Church in Frankfort, Ky. Steve is an adjunct professor of church history at Boyce College and Southern Seminary, and currently serves as a Research Assistant to the Director (Dr. Michael A. G. Haykin) of The Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies.

The post appeared on the ERLC blog, and originally appeared on Weaver’s blog.

Seventeenth-century English Baptists commitment to religious liberty was closely related to their understanding of the definition of the church as a body of baptized believers. As Baptist historian Thomas J. Nettles has observed, this commitment to religious liberty flowed from their prior commitment to a regenerate church, as opposed to a national one. “The doctrine of believers’ baptism coincident with the doctrine of regenerate church membership necessitates a doctrine of religious liberty with its attendant truths.”[1] It is no coincidence, then, that the seventeenth-century English Baptist pastor Hercules Collins’ clearest call for religious liberty is found in Some Reasons for Separation From the Communion of the Church of England, the work in which he most strongly argued for regenerate church membership.

Baptists’ defense of religious liberty has historically been linked to their concept of a regenerate church membership, since this necessitates a separation of church and state. In the early seventeenth century, men such as John Smyth, Thomas Helwys, John Murton, and Roger Williams had been advocates for religious liberty. While Collins distanced himself from any view of successionism which would have connected the Particular Baptists of his day with Smyth’s se-baptism, he was not afraid to identify himself with their pleas for religious liberty. In the imaginary dialogue between a conformist and nonconformist in Some Reasons for Separation, Collins places himself clearly in the Smyth–Helwys–Murton–Williams continuum by citing some of the same sources first used in 1621 by John Murton in A Most Humble Supplication of Many the Kings Majesties Loyall Subjects.[2] These quotes were later repeated by Roger Williams in his defense of Murton against the New England Puritan John Cotton in the classic 1644 work on religious liberty, The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution.[3] Collins quotes several of the same testimonies from history, including King James before Parliament in 1609 and in his Apology to the Oath of Allegiance, Hilary against Auxentius, and Tertullian Ad Scapulam.[4] The use of these references found in Murton and Williams likely indicates a familiarity by Collins with two of the most important early Baptist works on religious liberty. Collins, however, offered his own concise summary of the issue at stake by asserting, “That none should be compelled to worship God by a temporal Sword, but such as come willingly, and none can worship God to acceptance but such.”[5] Collins believed that, although dissenting churches may not have been in submission to the law of England, they were to the law of Christ, and this is what mattered for it was more important to obey God than man.

Christ hath given full power to his Church, as such to Preach the Gospel publickly, administer Ordinances, and to officiate in other Matters, relating to their Meeting in God’s Worship; which, if we should decline at the Command of Men, this would be to regard men more than Christ, which we dare not do. Is it better to obey God or man, judg ye? Were the sayings of two Worthy of old, Act. 5.[6]

If ordering one’s churches according to the law of Christ be considered “conceit and obstinacy,” Collins declared in Luther-esque manner, “I shall so remain, unless you convince me of the contrary from Gods Word.”[7] Collins believed that confidence in the promise of Christ in Matthew 5:10-12 to reward those persecuted for righteousness would enable him and his fellow Baptists patiently to endure without resistance when persecuted.

If you do persecute us for our Conscience, I hope God will give us that Grace which may inable us patiently to suffer for Christ’s sake; for he that seeks to defend or preserve himself from Persecution, by taking up a temporal Sword; He is either one that believes there is no such Reward as is mentioned in Matth. 5. to those that patiently suffer, or unwise to Reject the opportunity of getting it.[8]

For the principle of religious liberty, which preserved the ability of freedom to worship God as conscientiously convinced by Scripture, Baptists like Hercules Collins were willing to risk their freedom, and even their lives.

[1]Thomas J. Nettles, The Baptists: Key People Involved in Forming a Baptist Identity, vol. 2, Beginnings in America (Fearn, Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 2005), 19.

[2]John Murton, A Most Humble Supplication of Many the Kings Majesties Loyall Subjects, Ready to Testifie all civill obedience, by the oath, as the Law of this Realme requireth, and that of conscience; Who are Persecuted, onely for differing in Religion, contrary to divine and humane testimonies as followeth (1621).

[3]Roger Williams, The Bloudy Tenent, of Persecution, for Cause of Conscience, discussed, in A Conference betweene Truth and Peace (London, 1644).

[4]Cf. Murton, A Most Humble Supplication of Many, 26-30; Williams, The Bloudy Tenent, 2-3; and Hercules Collins, Some Reasons for Separation From the Communion of the Church of England, and the Unreasonableness of Persecution Upon that Account (London: John How, 1682), 18-20. The quotation from Tertullian, though reproduced in its entirety, is attributed merely to “one of the Ancients” in Collins. Cf. Murton, A Most Humble Supplication of Many, 27; Williams, The Bloudy Tenent, 4; and Collins, Some Reasons for Separation, 19.

[5]Collins, Some Reasons for Separation, 20.

[6]Collins, Some Reasons for Separation, 17.

[7]Collins, Some Reasons for Separation, 17.

[8]Collins, Some Reasons for Separation, 20.

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