Sunday, January 13, 2002

Inouye gets it right
about gambling

The issue: Sen. Daniel Inouye
delivers a strong message that Hawaii
should not permit legalized gambling.

Bravo for the senior senator from Hawaii for his upfront, forthright declaration that legalized gambling should have no future in this state. Senator Inouye was not only right, he was right for the right reasons.

Addressing a luncheon meeting of the Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, Inouye said: "The worst thing we can hope to do for the state of Hawaii is gaming," gaming being the euphemism used by the gambling industry seeking to persuade the innocent and naive to allow them to set up shop.

The senator struck at the heart of the gamblers' contention, that gambling would produce revenues to ease Hawaii's economic plight. "To say that gaming will be a part of our economic development and alleviate our problems is a cop-out," he said. He asserted that relying on gambling to fund education would be "sinful."

He argued that gambling would compete with merchants. "It may provide employment for those who work in the casino," he said, "but what about the mom-and-pop stores? What about the shopping centers? What about the restaurants? They won't like it."

The state's most influential political leader chided those members of the state Legislature seeking to duck their responsibilities: "I just hope that my colleagues in the Legislature here will do the right thing."

The current scenario envisaged by the pro-gambling forces would have the Legislature hold hearings on various proposals that would be voted down on the floor. That, however, would not end the debate as a groundswell of "let the people decide" is gathering strength. It is an appealing message in a working democracy.

Inouye would have none of it. Instead, he delivered a short course on representative government 101. "If we had constantly called upon the people to have a referendum on every touchy issue, then why elect us?" he asked rhetorically. "If our vote in the legislative body is an improper one, one that the people of Hawaii don't support, they can vote us out."

The senator feared for the image of Hawaii as a destination for honeymooners and families if gambling takes hold. "The people who come to this hotel will be a different type of people," he said. "It will not be the type you see now with their children, young folks spending their honeymoon."

Inouye was also right in not couching his opposition to gambling as a moral issue because honest people can differ on moral fundamentals. "I'm against gaming," he said, "not on a moral basis. I'm not a moralist. But I know this much. I'm a politician, and hopefully a pragmatic one."

The senator's pragmatism, candor and sound arguments were most refreshing. Bravo, again.

Faith-based initiative
needs to be changed

The issue: A federal judge in
Wisconsin has halted direct state
funding to a religion-based charity.

PRESIDENT Bush's initiative to provide federal funding for religious charities was among the programs put on the back burner by the war against terrorism. A federal judge's ruling in Wisconsin should add further pause and result in a revision of the proposal so that it will comply with the principle of separation of church and state.

District Judge Barbara B. Crabb ordered the state of Wisconsin to stop giving money to the Faith Works program, which has relied heavily on spirituality in its treatment of drug and alcohol addiction. It uses prayer and Bible study in its program.

"I conclude that the Faith Works program indoctrinates its participants in religion, primarily through its counselors," the judge ruled. "Religion is so integral to the Faith Works program that it is not possible to isolate it from the program as a whole." The program had been praised by Bush during a 2000 campaign stop in Milwaukee as the kind of program he wanted to promote.

The requirement that government-financed charities not be laced with religion is not a deterrent for many church-sponsored charities. For example, 85 percent of Catholic Charities' $18 million budget in Hawaii last year came from government, and Lutheran Angel Network Charities received government grants totaling $68,000, because they operate separately from their affiliated churches and don't proselytize.

Judge Crabb's ruling was not surprising, as Bush's faith-based initiative has drawn sharp criticism for blurring church and state. The Wisconsin case, filed by the Freedom from Religion Foundation, is one of four in the country that have challenged the constitutionality of the way states have implemented a 1996 welfare measure that loosened the restrictions on government financing of religion-based programs.

In her opinion, Crabb wrote that public funding is allowed when it "flows to faith-based organizations solely as a result of the genuinely independent and private choices of individuals." The Wisconsin state grants to Faith Works were unrestricted and not based on the number of men served. However, the government could issue vouchers to people seeking charitable services that could be provided by church-based charities or non-religious programs.

Bush said early last year that he could accept such a voucher system. "We should not use taxpayers' money to fund groups that proselytize," he said. "My attitude is, you fund an individual."

Although Attorney General John Ashcroft filed a legal brief on behalf of Faith Works, Justice Department spokeswoman Susan Dryden said the case "reaffirms the importance of providing protections to make sure that federal funds aren't used for religious or proselytizing purposes." The president's faith-based initiative should be changed accordingly.

Published by Oahu Publications Inc., a subsidiary of Black Press.

Don Kendall, Publisher

Frank Bridgewater, managing editor 529-4791;
Michael Rovner,
assistant managing editor 529-4768;
Lucy Young-Oda, assistant managing editor 529-4762;

Richard Halloran, editorial page director, 529-4790;
John Flanagan, contributing editor 294-3533;

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