ATLANTA — The Faith and Freedom Coalition of Georgia hosted a luncheon at the Sloppy Floyd Building in Atlanta on Feb. 25. Those in attendance heard from Governor Nathan Deal and a host of state governmental officials and Professor John Kindt of the University of Illinois.
While conservative values were extolled at the luncheon the state Regulated Industries Committee of the House of Representatives across the street at the Capitol were approving a measure that would allow Georgia voters to decide whether or not to allow up to four casinos in the state.
Mike Griffin, public policy representative of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, said that casinos would jeopardize “the moral integrity of our state” and he urged lawmakers not use a statewide referendum to abdicate their responsibilities.
A chance to be better
If news from the Capitol was not good, the spirit of the luncheon was most encouraging. Ralph Reed, the founder and chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, introduced Governor Nathan Deal, who spoke about his criminal justice reform program. He indicated that in his six years as governor the state prison population has dropped from over 60,000 to less than 52,000.
Deal indicated that when he took office only 800 out of 60,000 prison inmates were engaged in educational programs to better prepare themselves for a job when released from prison. Now 25,000, almost half of those in the Georgia prison system, are pursuing an education.
In a July editorial the Wall Street Journal heralded Deal’s efforts in criminal justice reform and stated that along with Texas Governor Rick Perry and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie he was leading the way in this significant effort.
State Senator Josh McKoon explained, “In 2014 we presented a bill to treat free exercise the same as free speech. (Free exercise is the accompanying clause with the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and relates to the government making no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …).
McKoon added, “But we got bushwhacked. However, the support we got from Virginia Galloway (Regional Field Director of Faith and Freedom) and the Faith and Freedom Coalition was like being at the Alamo and seeing the cavalry coming over the hill to the rescue.
“Religious faith is not like a piece of clothing that you take off when you leave church, but something that permeates every area of your life.”
In the shadow
Tony Lowden, representing the Governor’s Office of Transition, Support, and Reentry, addressed the gathering about “Healing Communities of Georgia.” He stated, “Our purpose is to develop Stations of Hope to welcome returning citizens (former prison inmates) back into society with repentance, forgiveness, grace, and restoration. We need more churches to become Stations of Hope.”
Lowden emphasized, “For example, we have some big churches in DeKalb County, yet we also have an abundance of sex trafficking. There should be no sex trafficking in the shadow of a church. God intended for the church to have a greater influence than that.
“Faith-based institutions should be able to support returning citizens, their families, and victims in a unique way by reinforcing pro-social behaviors through prayer, religious study, planned social activities, volunteering in the community, and simply through fellowship.”
Ralph Hudgens, Insurance and Safety Fire commissioner, commented, “When I first began to think about being in politics I asked a friend in a liberal church, ‘What is it like for a Christian to be in politics?’ and he said, ‘You will have your idealistic views dashed on the rocks of reality.’
“I had been reading a book by Christian author Tim LaHaye, The Spirit-Controlled Temperament, and found out that he and his wife Beverly were at Rehoboth Baptist Church in Tucker leading in a conference. My wife and I went to hear what they had to say and I had the opportunity to speak with Dr. LaHaye privately and asked him, ‘I have been thinking about running for political office, but don’t know whether I should or not. Can you help me decide what to do?’
“He replied, ‘What is your spiritual gift?’
“I told him that my gift is service. He then said, ‘All right, finish this sentence. A politician is a public______________. When I finished the sentence by saying ‘servant’ I knew I had my answer. I now have a job in the state government that fits me well, because I have the opportunity to provide leadership in the Division of Consumer Services.”
There should be no sex trafficking in the shadow of a church. God intended for the church to have a greater influence than that.
Tony Lowden, Governor’s Office of Transition, Support, and Reentry
Tim Echols, Public Service commissioner, was next on the agenda and read from Ephesians 5:11, which says: “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.”
Echols added, “We have a blight of sex trafficking and selling kids for sex. What is happening in Atlanta should keep us awake at night.”
Echols hosted an Unholy Tour of the “Red Light District” of Atlanta last year and intends to host another one this year. The purpose of the “Tour” is to permit the group to observe the sex trade in the metro Atlanta area from the safety of the charter bus.
He stated, “As an Atlanta native, I am appalled that our city is one of the worst in the country for sex trafficking of young girls. We owe it to the next generation to lock up the perpetrators, both buyers and sellers, and send a message that Georgia is not buying it.”
There is a cause
Gary Black, Georgia Agricultural commissioner, addressed the luncheon audience and indicated that he had read I Samuel 17 for his devotional time that morning and was impressed with David’s question to the leadership of the Israelite army that cowered before the threats of the giant Goliath. David asked, “Is there not a cause?’ Black urged those present to be vigilant in the face of formidable obstacles in today’s fight for freedom.
John Kindt, professor from the University of Illinois, addressed the gambling issue that was a very present issue before the Regulated Industries Committee. He said, “Virginia just voted on a gambling bill to hook kids on Daily Fantasy Sports gambling. They want to put everything on a fast track to push their agenda though the process.
“In Newsweek there was an article about gambling entitled ‘Poker Face’, which quipped, ‘Click your phone and lose your home. Click your mouse and lose your house.’
Kindt has been quoted as saying, “Gambling has a zero-sum economic effect in its market and, like legalizing cocaine, the socio-economic costs of legalizing gambling overwhelm the benefits. Legalized gambling costs taxpayers $3 for every $1 in state revenue to government. Any legislator who says he doesn’t see the downside (of gambling) hasn’t done his homework.”
State School Superintendent Richard Wood stated, “Someone told me, ‘this place will change you; and he didn’t mean it in a good way. However, if I am changed I want it to be into the likeness of Christ.
“I draw inspiration from God’s Word,” the school superintendent explained. “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego determined not to bow down to the image set up by King Nebuchadnezzar and were condemned to burn in the fiery furnace, but they said, ‘If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known to thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.”
Wood concluded, “One day we will stand before God and it will be a team interview. It will be a personal interview. I want him to say of me, ‘Well done, thy good and faithful servant.’”
Apathy will lure false disciples to “slouch toward Sodom” and thus contribute to the disintegration of the greatest republic in history, but God still has His remnant. Christian zeal will motivate that remnant to rise up and stand for truth and freedom.