Magazine article Church & State

Religious Right Silent on Bill Bennett's Gambling Addiction. (People & Events)

Magazine article Church & State

Religious Right Silent on Bill Bennett's Gambling Addiction. (People & Events)

Article excerpt

The recent revelation that former education secretary and self-appointed "virtue czar" William Bennett has a gambling habit provoked an unusual response from the nation's Religious Right organizations: utter silence.

Most Religious Right organizations oppose state-sponsored gambling. Focus on the Family's James Dobson has called it "a destroyer that ruins lives and wrecks families." Groups like Concerned Women for America and the Southern Baptist Convention have lobbied against legalized gambling on Capitol Hill. Ralph Reed, former executive director of the Christian Coalition, once called gambling a "cancer on the body politic, destroying families, stealing food from the mouths of children, turning wives into widows."

Many of these same organizations are also big fans of Bennett, whose book, The Book of Virtues, is popular among the Religious Right. Many have also paid Bennett to speak at their events.

When the story broke May 5 that Bennett enjoys high-stakes gambling and may have spent as much as $8 million at casinos over the years, Religious Right leaders remained silent. While a few secular conservatives defended Bennett, leaders like Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and Dobson had nothing to say.

At first, Bennett tried to defend his actions, arguing that he can afford to gamble and saying he never bets "the milk money." Bennett, a Roman Catholic, also argued that his church has never opposed all forms of gambling, noting that bingo is a popular fund-raiser in many Catholic parishes. …

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