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Ohio bishops take positions on statewide ballot issues

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

By David Eck

ARCHDIOCESE — The Ohio Catholic Conference, made up of the 11 active Catholic bishops in the state, opposes the casino gambling proposal on the Nov. 3 ballot but supports creation of an Ohio livestock board and does not oppose payments to the veterans of the wars in the Persian Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The bishops speak as one voice through the conference, which is chaired by Cincinnati Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk.

In determining their positions on the issues, the bishops look at the specific components of each issue, evaluate the positives and negatives and apply Catholic social teaching to the issue, said Tony Stieritz, director of the archdiocesan Catholic Social Action Office.

Farmer Jack Springer feeds his cattle from his dwindling supply of winter hay. The Ohio bishops support the establishment of a livestock care standards board. (CNS photo by Michael Hoyt, Catholic Standard)

In opposing Issue 3, which would authorize the construction of four casinos in Ohio, the bishops cited social, moral and economic concerns. The conference has consistently opposed expanded gambling in Ohio.

“The Catholic Conference of Ohio has opposed all previous statewide casino and slot machine initiatives,” the bishops wrote in their position. “The Catholic bishops in Ohio continue to believe casino gambling, as proposed in Issue 3, is not in the best moral, social and economic interests of the citizens of our state. More persons and families will be seduced into financial hardship, rather than helped. More societal problems will be aggravated, rather than improved.”

The bishops were also concerned that the proposal is “poorly written” and seems to favor the private gambling interests.

While the bishops may not see gaming in itself as wrong, the scale of gambling casinos provide can create social and financial hardships, Stieritz said.

“When you take this to a certain level you’re not talking about parish bingos anymore,” Stieritz said. “The bishops have established a track record of opposing all the past (gambling) initiatives. The bishops’ position this year has just continued to not waiver. They’re essentially reiterating the position they’ve taken in all those other years.”

Ohio voters have rejected four different gambling initiatives in the past decade, including one in 2008.

Issue 2 would establish an Ohio livestock care standards board. The bishops support the issue.

They note that despite continued debate over standards for livestock care, many Ohio farm families are responsible and humane in providing food through confined livestock operations.

“Regardless of one’s position on Issue 2, it is vital for Ohio to have an appropriately regulated and enforced set of animal care and safe food standards, while still assuring affordable and accessible food for all,” the bishops wrote.

The bishops do not oppose Issue 1, which would provide stipends to the Ohio veterans of the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts.

“The bishops truly appreciate the sacrifices made by the men and women who serve our country in defending freedom and peace,” the bishops wrote in their position. “Bonus pay can be a worthwhile way to express gratitude and appreciation. We are especially proud of the many Catholic war veterans who have honorably served in the military.”

Though the bishops are giving their recommendation for each issue, voters are asked to weigh them seriously in making their own decisions.

“The bishops recognize that each of these (issues) involve a prudential judgment on behalf of the voter, where persons of good will may choose different ways to respond to compelling social problems,” Stieritz said.

David Eck can be reached at [email protected].

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