The ELCA Church Council has asked several groups within the ELCA to examine and study the issue of "Indian gambling" (press release here). The ELCA is generally opposed to gambling, so I am not sure why legal gambling in casinos owned and operated by Indian tribes would be any different.
- In its social statement on economic life entitled Sufficient Sustainable Livelihood for All, the ELCA expresses "opposition to lotteries and other state-sponsored gambling because of how these regressive means of raising state revenues adversely affect those who are poor." Take away the references to the state and this statement describes an opposition to gambling because of its adverse affect on those who are poor.
- The ELCA’s congregational study on gambling raises many concerns about the social and moral questions surrounding gambling.
If the ELCA is generally opposed to gambling (as we can surmise by the above statement), why would it take a different approach to Indian gambling? The ends – that of improving the economic life of an Indian tribe – shouldn’t justify the means, it seems to me. Perhaps a statement on Indian gambling could
- express in unambiguous terms the church’s opposition to gambling;
- recognize the economic and social plight of Indians; and
- express regret that Native Americans have so few options for economic development and improved social welfare.
I don’t see how we as a church can endorse gambling for Indians when we (and many advocates for the poor) are critical of gambling’s regressive social impact. I hope that in this study we can express compassion for the plight of Native Americans while simultaneously recognizing that gambling disproportionately and negatively affects the most vulnerable and poor members of society.