The late political columnist Davis Rawson once infuriated then-Speaker of the House John Martin to the point that Maine’s most powerful politician told reporters, “Davis Rawson is a drunk and a has-been.”
To which Rawson replied, “The speaker, as usual, is only half-right.”
If Rawson were still with us, he might be applying that quip to the Christian Civic League of Maine. Although, maybe without the “as usual” part. For the league, being half-right would be way above average.
In the recent past, the group has called for boycotts of The Da Vinci Code, Harry Potter books, a lingerie shop that employed live models, and civil-rights programs in high schools. In 2005, league executive director Michael Heath suggested a gay-rights parade “brought the wrath of God down on New Orleans” in the form of Hurricane Katrina. Earlier this year, Heath attacked a Portland School Committee decision to provide birth control to some middle-school students by saying, “Jesus suggests that a watery grave is the appropriate resting place” for anyone who explains the facts of life to young, inquiring minds.
Heath and the league often come off as being a couple of commandments shy of a full tablet. But this crowd isn’t always wrong. Sometimes it’s right for the wrong reasons.
Take gambling, for example. The league is against it because the Bible says gambling is ... uh ... well, actually, the Bible doesn’t say much of anything about gambling. Probably just an oversight on God’s part. Leave it to Heath to correct that. “The issue of gambling is about morality,” he declared on the league’s Web site. Heaven take notice.
The league is opposing the referendum question on the November ballot that asks voters to approve a casino in Oxford County. And the league is right. This is a terrible proposal, not because it’s immoral — although it comes pretty close — but because it’s a one-man power grab.
If the measure is approved by voters, it would allow a company run by Seth Carey of Rumford to build and operate a gambling establishment. Unlike the Hollywood Slots racino in Bangor, there would be no limit on the number of slot machines Carey could offer. There would also be no restrictions on the types of slots, allowing him to tempt suckers with many games of chance that are currently prohibited. The referendum also would lower the age at which Mainers can legally gamble from 21 to 19. That might provide a lot of new customers to any other casinos that open in the future — except there won’t be any other casinos. Carey’s initiative grants him the exclusive right to run a gambling house in Maine for the next decade.
The ballot measure would require the casino to turn over 39 percent of its profits to the state. But it also allows the casino president, probably Carey, to serve on the governing boards of any state agencies that receive that money. He’d automatically be able to set policy for the University of Maine System, the Maine Community Colleges, the Finance Authority of Maine, and the Land for Maine’s Future program, among others. Carey would have more clout than John Martin in his prime.