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Not a Sure Bet

Fellow horse-racing enthusiast Craig Brownstein of D.C. emails to tell me of his disgust over the latest anti-gambling wrinkle. Just as he was getting ready to bet on the Breeders Cup, he was notified that horse-betting services had decided to cancel all accounts of bettors living in the District of Columbia. The firms have noted the upsurge of anti-gambling legislation everywhere, and are running scared because D.C. law does not expressly permit wagering on horse races.

So all you LGBTs out there who cherish the freedom to bet on sports as well as the freedom to be yourself openly in sports -- watch out. The religious right is coming for your NBA office pool, and your online poker game, and anything else they can get their hands on. The lobbying against legal gambling by conservative churches and religious-right groups is getting huge. They're looking to get rid of everything from online betting to state lotteries to expansion by casinos.

The churchifiers argue that gambling is immoral because it can be addictive, and wastes an individual's (and a family's) resources in a time of economic crisis. Nuh-uh. That rhetoric is just a smokescreen designed to get law-makers on their side. The fact is, religious righters -- especially the Protestant variety -- oppose gambling because they believe that it's inherently immoral. (Catholics take a more lenient approach -- after all, bingo keeps the Pope afloat.) The Bible doesn't condemn gambling specifically, but the righters say that gambling is a form of stealing, which is forbidden by the Ten Commandments. I'm not making this up.

Their argument against gambling is as torturous as the one that homosexuality is immoral. But the churchifiers have been lobbying against gambling and homosexuality ever since the first English colonists came to America. In Pennsylvania, and the Puritan colonies of New England, laws were passed to fiercely prohibit and punish gambling. So the present effort has a long and scary history. Anybody who values their freedom to bet responsibly should sign onto activist efforts to protect that freedom. -- Patricia Nell Warren