Click here to go to the "Current Issues" page for additional information regarding gambling.
Alabama State Legislative Session 2013
Note: House bills are identified as "HB" and Senate bills are identified as "SB"
Click here to find the names and contact information of your state legislators.
People often call our office to find out how certain legislators voted on certain bills or issues. Project Vote Smart is an excellent resource for finding such answers. Click on the "Project Vote Smart" link to go to the Alabama page. Then, type in your zip code or the legislator's name, the issue or key word about which you are inquiring and the year. Then click on "Go."
Galatians 6:9 (KJV)
9And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
May 8, 2013
In a surprise move, last night (May 7), Senator Gerald Dial moved to bring up the Home Brew Bill (HB9) out of order on the floor of the Senate. After the vote was taken, the bill passed 18-7, with 1 abstaining and 9 not voting. We have attached the voting record for each Senator. I encourage you to contact your Senator and thank him/her for voting NO or for not voting, and express your disappointment to those who voted YES. Those who are pastors might also want to let your congregation know how their Senator voted.
The bill now goes to the Governor's desk for his signature. I want to thank all of you who contacted your House Members earlier in the session and your Senators recently and asked them to oppose this bill.
April 25, 2013
Sen. Dial plans to filibuster SB446, a bill that raises the penalty on "big time" gambling from a Class A Misdemeanor to a Class C Felony. Everyone in his district needs to call him NOW! Respectfully ask him to NOT filibuster SB446!
His secretary is Ruth, and she is very sweet, so be nice, but be firm!
Please get as many people as possible to call Sen. Dial's office this morning (April 25)!
The phone number for Sen. Dial's office in Montgomery is 334.242.7874.
Dr. Joe Godfrey, Executive Director
April 19, 2013
With only 8 legislative days left in the current 2013 Alabama Legislative Session, Sen. Bryan Taylor (R-Prattville) has introduced a bill, Senate Bill 446 (SB446) that will raise the penalty for organized gambling in Alabama from a Class A Misdemeanor to a Class C Felony. This increased penalty should help to deter anyone from setting up an electronic bingo casino and keep machine manufacturers out of Alabama.
This bill, if passed by both the Senate and the House of Representatives in Montgomery and signed by the Governor, will stop illegal casinos from popping up in our neighborhoods, near our churches, schools and throughout the state. It will help to put the gambling issue in Alabama to rest once and for all!
A similar bill was introduced last year and did not get passed. We have an opportunity to get it passed this year, even though the time left in this Session is very short. This is why we need your help! There are 4-5 senators who we understand are unwilling to vote cloture on a possible filibuster. If churches will begin to "flood" the phone lines, email boxes and "snail mail" boxes of each State Senator, and courteously ask them to vote cloture on a possible filibuster, and then vote for passage of SB446, we can make a huge difference!
These gambling establishments and machine manufacturers continue to set up operations even though they know they will be shut down because the penalty is so small. They consider the relatively small fine associated with a misdemeanor to be the "cost of doing business," while they steal millions of dollars from the pockets of individuals who do not realize that "the house ALWAYS wins!" Evidence is overwhelming that the machines are often rigged and they are designed to get people addicted to gambling. The breaking of at least four of the Ten Commandments are involved in gambling and, given the addictive nature of gambling, especially in the area of electronic slot machines, the Bible clearly teaches that we should not put a stumbling block in the path of others.
Please follow the link to find your senator and contact him/her today! Be respectful and courteous (especially to the secretaries who may take your message), but be firm in asking them to vote YES to cloture of a possible filibuster and YES to passage of SB446. Act NOW because time is running out!
Not concerned about illegal casinos? See this video from former Governor John Patterson talking about the assassination of his father, former Alabama Attorney General Elect Albert Patterson, who was gunned down in the streets of Phenix City, AL after winning the AG election based on his promise to end gambling in that city. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z0YXdXemEew
March 25, 2013
Dr. Joseph C. Godfrey, Executive Director
The 2013 Session of the Alabama Legislature is at the half-way point and will be on Spring Break the week of March 25-29. This frees up a little time for me to give you an update and identify several specific actions you can take in order to make a difference in our state.
- House Bill (HB9) and Senate Bill (SB171) - "Homebrew Bill" - Both the House version and Senate version of these companion bills have passed out of committees in their respective houses. HB9 is on the Special Order Calendar in the House of Representatives for April 2 when the Legislators return from their Spring Break. A similar bill failed to pass two years ago in the House, but passed in the House last year. It did not pass the Senate because the Session ended before they could get to it. Many media outlets and a few pastors have questioned why ALCAP opposes this bill, which if it passes and is signed into law by Governor Bentley will make Alabama the last state in the Union to legalize the home-brewing of beer, wine and mead (Mississippi just passed a home-brewing bill, so that makes Alabama the last state to do so). As I have explained to everyone who asks, we oppose this legislation for several reasons:
- ALCAP opposes all alcohol liberalization bills. The United Kingdom (UK) has been loosening their restrictions on alcohol for the last 4-5 decades and today they are trying to rein in the out-of-control use of alcohol that is causing major social problems in their island nation. When Prohibition was repealed in the United States in the 1930s, controls on alcohol (a mind-altering and addictive drug) were left up to the individual states. As states, including Alabama, have relaxed their restrictions, alcohol-related problems have been continually rising just as they did in the UK. In 2006, the latest statistics from the U. S. Centers for Disease Control show that alcohol-related problems cost Americans $223.5 billion, and that expenditure is repeated and increasing each year. Home-brewing is yet another step in making alcohol more available to more people in more ways.
- Children in the homes of home-brewers will grow up with alcohol (a mind-altering, addictive drug) readily available to them. Pre-teens typically get their first taste of alcohol in the home. While a parent may miss a can from the six-pack of beer in the refrigerator, will that parent miss "swigs" of home-brewed beer taken from gallon jugs stored in the house?
- How will home-brewed beer be policed? There will be no licensing involved in the law as the bill currently reads, and up to 15 gallons can be stored in one's home each quarter of the year (60 gallons cumulatively in 12 months). If home-brewers are currently breaking the law (as they have all but admitted to doing in public hearings), how will we know they are obeying the law as far as the amounts they are storing if this bill should become law? And, what about public health issues regarding the production and storing of such quantities of an alcoholic beverage? All of these are questions that are yet to be answered.
- The bill allows for up to 10 gallons to be transported to festivals and tasting contests. How will gallon jugs with screw-on tops impact the open container law in Alabama that makes possession of open containers of alcoholic beverages in one's automobile illegal?
- Finally, there is the issue of "incrementalism." Each year, home-brewers could possibly return to the State Legislature seeking to store and/or transport larger quantities of their drug. It is also possible that distillers will begin to ask for permission to produce distilled spirits (hard liquor, or "moonshine") on the basis that "if people can brew beer and mead, or produce wine at home, why can't we set up a still in our house or back yard?"
- Several local bills have been introduced that, if passed will allow the sale of alcoholic beverages on Sunday. Again, this is another step toward loosening any and all restrictions on this mind-altering and addictive drug (ethyl alcohol). Six days a week of selling alcohol are apparently not enough - those who stand to profit from alcohol sales want to be able to sell it seven days a week. I've talked with families who appreciate not having to be around people drinking while eating out on Sunday. Has alcohol become such a focus in our culture that people cannot take off at least one day each week from purchasing and drinking it? A few legislators have indicated that they are opposed to these local "Sunday alcohol sales" bills, but they are not hearing from Christians and churches opposing the bills. (I have, specifically, heard from Representatives Steve Hurst and Becky Nordgren, who are asking for support from the churches in opposing Sunday alcohol sales in their districts.) They are hearing from city council members and county commissioners, who are looking only at the immediate revenue they think will come to their communities from adding a few hours a week of alcohol sales, but who discount the higher cost that will come because of increased alcohol use. However, they are not hearing from people these legislators told me they thought would support their opposition. Please take time to contact your House members and Senators and encourage them to oppose any attempts to legalize Sunday alcohol sales in your county or city. Already bills have been introduced that would legalize Sunday sales in the following cities and/or counties. If you live in these areas, please contact your legislators and urge them to oppose Sunday alcohol sales! (If you live in other areas of the state where there is talk about such action, contact your city council members, county commissioners and state legislators and ask them NOT to push for or introduce legislation that would legalize Sunday alcohol sales.
- Privatization update: I shared earlier in this 2013 Session that we anticipated a bill that would privatize the Alcohol Beverage Control stores in Alabama. I gave several reasons for our opposition to that suggestion and my op-ed has actually appeared in at least one national publication and several state publications. I will not repeat my arguments here except to point out that under the control system now in place in Alabama, we have the highest revenue from the selling of distilled spirits (hard liquor) of any of the fifty United States and we are among the lowest in consumption each year. We want to see the consumption rate stay low! At this half-way point in the 2013 Legislative Session, no privatization bill has been introduced. The individual who has talked about introducing such a bill has indicated that he is still working out the details and would like to discuss his bill with Dr. Ireland and me before he introduces it in order to get our input. We will welcome this opportunity.
- HB57, introduced by Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin, has passed the House and has passed out of the Senate Health Committee. It is awaiting action in the full Senate. It was on the Special Order Calendar on the last day before the Senate adjourned for Spring Break and the leadership has assured us that it will be taken up as soon as they return to the State House on April 2. If it passes the Senate without amendments, it will go to the Governor for his signature. If it is amended, it will have to go back to the House for their concurrence. This bill calls for abortion clinics to meet the same standards as those currently in effect in ambulatory surgical centers. If the abortion clinics cannot meet those standards, they will be forced to close. Most pro-life organizations, including ALCAP, support this legislation.
- A couple of bills designed to regulate payday lending and title pawn shops have been introduced. These bills, if passed into law, will help to protect individuals from the predatory nature of the payday lending and title pawn shop owners. An unusual alliance of conservative organizations, such as ALCAP, and groups usually identified as being more liberal in their positions have partnered with both conservative and liberal legislators in support of these regulatory bills. On April 2, at 1:45 p.m., there will be a rally and press conference at the State House, sponsored by the Alliance for Responsible Lending in Alabama. At 2:30 p.m. everyone will be encouraged to visit their respective legislators and ask them to support these payday lending and title pawn bills (we will have the bill numbers available at the gathering, but one bill is HB462 by Rep. Rod Scott). For more information on this gathering, you can call Jacob at 334.263.0086.
- On the state level, two or three bills have been introduced that would legalize a state-wide lottery in Alabama. However, the leadership in the House and Senate have indicated that these bills will not pass out of committee. For that strong stand against gambling, we are grateful. It has been refreshing not to have to deal with pro-gambling bills since the beginning of the 2011 Regular Legislative Session! Prior to that time, pro-gambling bills would often dominate the 30-day sessions. One year, the Senate actually wasted 10 legislative days (one third of the entire session) on one pro-gambling bill.
- Still no word on legislation to increase the penalty for possession of 10 or more electronic gambling devices from a Class A Misdemeanor to a Class C Felony. We have received word that there are 4-5 State Senators who are not willing to vote cloture on a possible filibuster should this bill ever make it to the Senate floor. Unless there are enough votes to stop a filibuster, there is no need to introduce such a bill. When we are able to identify the 4-5 Senators in question, we will let our ALCAP friends know so that you can contact them about this issue.
- On the national level, it has come to our attention that Congressman Spencer Bachus (R-Birmingham) is co-sponsoring HR279 in the House of Representatives in Washington, DC. This bill, if passed into law, will be what is termed the "Carcieri Fix." In 2009 the U. S. Supreme Court ruled that Indian tribes recognized after 1934 do not qualify for "land into trust" through the U. S. Department of Interior, and thus cannot purchase land on which to build casinos. Since the Poarch Band of Creek Indians were not recognized until 1985, this Supreme Court ruling opened the door for Alabama's Attorney General, Luther Strange, to file a lawsuit against the Poarch Band of Creek Indians in order to stop them from continuing and expanding their electronic slot machine gambling operations in Alabama. If HR279 passes, it will make the Attorney General's lawsuit a moot issue. Several calls to Rep. Bachus' office have yet to produce a response from the Congressman. Those who live in his congressional district are urged to call Rep. Bachus and voice your outrage at his endorsement of this legislation. Be respectful, but passionate as you voice your opinion.
- HB108 - The "Religious Liberty Act" (a.k.a. the "Hobby Lobby Bill") would prevent the government from forcing family-owned companies or businesses with 10 or fewer owners from being forced to provide employee insurance coverage for services, items and/or drugs that might go against the religious beliefs of those owners (such as abortions, abortifacients, contraceptives, etc.). This bill has passed the House and is awaiting passage out of the Senate Committee on Banking and Insurance.
- Two companion bills have been introduced in the House and the Senate that would guarantee the right to display documents related to the founding of our nation (even if those documents have a religious connection) on public grounds, including schools - HB299 by Rep. Duwayne Bridges and SB40 by Sen. Gerald Dial. The Senate passed SB40 and the House Committee on Constitution, Campaigns and Elections voted to "give the bill a favorable report" (which means it now goes to the full House for a vote). Rep. Bridges asked that his bill be "carried over" so that the Senate version of the bill could move forward.
- The Alabama Accountability Act became law with the Governor's signature. This new law allows parents of children who live in failing school districts to receive a limited tax credit that can be used to enroll their child/children in another school. Our hope is that this law will serve to encourage schools to provide the best education possible for the children of Alabama.
- Companion bills in the House and Senate were introduced with the intention of repealing Alabama's participation in the Common Core Standards. Many feel that these standards will lead to a Federal Government take-over of the schools in Alabama and an actual lowering of standards for students. Both bills failed to pass out of committee in each house and are unlikely to do so before the 2013 Session ends.
- Rep. Patricia Todd's bill (HB2), legalizing the use of medical marijuana in Alabama, failed to pass out of the House Health Committee the first week of the 2013 Legislative Session. She has now introduced a similar bill (HB315), but it will not likely be brought up in committee before the end of the Session.
Continue to pray for the Alabama Legislature, asking God to lead them in making wise decisions that will help Alabama continue to be a wonderful place for raising families! Pray, too, for the legislators and their own families, and look for ways to show your government officials the love of Christ and your appreciation for their service.
The following article entitled, "Is That Legal?" was taken from the ivotevalues.com
website. It provides pertinent information concerning what churches and pastors can and cannot do in order to maintain a local church's tax-exempt status.
Is That Legal?
Good question! Many are confused about what is and what is not legal given the IRS restrictions on political activity by tax-exempt organizations. While it is impossible to lay out a definitive list of do’s and don’ts since the IRS interprets what is and isn't legal, the resource below is offered for general guidelines:
Churches may do the following:
- Sermons on moral and social issues and civic involvement
- Educate on political process and political/social/legislative issues
- Distribution of candidate surveys and incumbent voting records (avoid editorial opinions and make sure they cover a wide range of issues)
- Encourage members to voice their opinions in favor or in opposition to certain legislation.*
- Discuss biblical instruction pertaining to moral and cultural issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage, etc.
- Support or oppose judicial, department, or cabinet appointments
- Support or oppose other political appointments of non-elected officials
- Use of church facilities by political candidates (as long as all other candidates are allowed or invited)
- Petition drives supporting or opposing legislation
- Support or oppose legislation unrelated to the church organization.*
- Engage in voter registration activities that avoid promoting any one candidate or particular political party.
- Support or oppose legislation that directly relates to the organization.**
Churches may not do the following:
- Endorsing or opposing political candidates
- Contributions to Political Action Committees
- Church bulletin editorial where the pastor or staff member endorses or opposes a candidate
- Campaigning for candidates
- Fundraising for candidates
- Granting use of name to support a political candidate
- Support or oppose judicial candidates
- In-kind and independent expenditures for or against political candidates
- Contributions to political candidates
Pastors may do the following:
- Preach on moral and social issues and encourage civic involvement.
- Engage in voter registration activities that avoid promoting any one candidate or particular political party.
- Distribute educational materials to voters (such as voter guides), but only those that do not favor a particular candidate or party and that cover a wide range of issues.
- Conduct candidate or issues forums where each duly qualified candidate invited and provided an equal opportunity to address the congregation.
- Invite candidates or elected officials to speak at church services. Churches that allow only one candidate or a single party’s candidate to speak can be seen as favoring that candidate or party. No candidate should be prohibited from addressing a church if others running for the same office have been allowed to speak. Exempt from this are candidates or public figures who may speak at a church, but they must refrain from speaking about their candidacy.
Pastors may not do the following:
- Endorse candidates on behalf of the church.
- Use church funds or services (such as mailing lists or office equipment) to contribute directly to candidates or political committees.
- Permit the distribution of material on church premises that favors any one candidate or political party.
- Use church funds to pay fees for political events.
- Allow candidates to solicit funds while speaking in a church.
- Set up a political committee that would contribute funds directly to political candidates.
*Churches and other 501(c)(3) organizations may support or oppose legislation so long as such activity comprises an insubstantial part of the overall operation. 501(c)(4) organizations may support or oppose legislation without any limitations.
**A church or any other 501(c)(3) organization may without limitation support or oppose legislation that directly affects the organizational structure and operation. For example, a church may without limitation oppose legislation attempting to repeal the tax exempt status of the church.
Adapted from resources provided by:
Jay Sekulow, American Center for Law and Justice; www.aclj.org.
Mathew D. Staver, Liberty Council; www.lc.org.
The following statement came from the Focus on the Family's "Pastor's Weekly Briefing," dated October 4, 2007:
"This week, a coalition of five Christian organizations released a joint letter to help educate pastors and churches on how to speak on issues relevant to the 2008 elections while staying within the lawful boundaries set for nonprofit organizations. Focus on the Family — along with the Family Research Council, Alliance Defense Fund, Concerned Women for America, and the James Madison Center for Free Speech — is encouraging pastors and churches to become acquainted with their free-speech rights, and to not be intimidated by threats from liberal watchdog groups." [Click here to read the letter.]
The following article originally appeared in the Baptist Messenger, a publication of the Oklahoma Baptist Convention, and was later adapted by the Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention for one of their publications. It is reprinted here by permission of both the ERLC and the Baptist Messenger.
VIEWPOINT: Cowardly Clergyman?
- May 13, 2008 -
Since when does a church or its pastor have to remain silent when addressing moral and social issues from a biblical worldview? There is no shortage on those who would like to squelch the voice of the church, especially during a political season.
Now is not the time for the church and its pastor to turn passive with regard to addressing critical social and moral issues from the pulpit. The pastor must speak with conviction based on the authority of the Scripture, not with results from the latest opinion poll. The pastor must challenge his congregation with the truth of God’s Word without regard to the views and opinions of political parties or candidates.
The pastor must do all he can to provide insight to moral and social issues based on God’s Word. Shying away from or avoiding certain issues for fear of offending a particular political candidate or political party member is acting as a cowardly clergyman.
Pastors have every right to preach on moral and social issues and to encourage their congregations to become active in civic affairs. Pastors should never endorse a candidate on behalf of the church. Nor should they use church funds or services to contribute directly to candidates or political committees. The pastor should never distribute materials on church premises that favor any one candidate or political party. However, the pastor does have the right to address moral and social issues being addressed by candidates and political parties.
The church has every right to encourage members to voice their opinions in favor or against legislative issues. A church should never endorse or oppose a political candidate or make contributions to a Political Action Committee. Nor should churches conduct fundraising for political candidates. However, the church is an excellent place for the community to learn more about the political process and legislative issues.
Unfortunately, too many churches and pastors are standing on the sidelines allowing those with a secular worldview to dominate public affairs and critical legislation. Our silence has been perceived as agreement. We must clear our throats and be heard without concession.
We are not skating on thin ice when it comes to taking a stand regarding moral and social issues. We must not be intimidated by those who desire to silence the church. We are called to proclaim the truth. May Joshua 1:9 serve as our guide as we seek to address the moral and social issues of our day. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” May the Lord find us strong and courageous as together we seek to make a difference within our culture.
It is time to speak up, pastor. Take a stand with God’s Word as your guide! Churches, stand with your pastor as he proclaims the truth of God’s Word with regard to sensitive social and moral issues of the day.
Church members, beware of allowing your political persuasions to compromise your biblical convictions. Know where candidates stand on the issues and support those who share your values as a believer and follower of Jesus Christ.
This editorial is adapted and reprinted with permission from the April 10, 2008 Oklahoma Baptist Messenger.
The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission works to educate Americans about the importance of voting, among many other moral and social issues we face in today’s society. To learn more about this important issue, please visit our Web site at iVoteValues.com.