Smart Talk May 5 

Baptist officials rebuked In a column in the recent Arkansas Baptist News, Emil Turner, executive director of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, chastised Baptist elected state officials for allowing enactment of a law that expands gambling in Arkansas. “If every Baptist elected official who either endorsed or refused to oppose this measure had made some effort to stop it, the measure would not have passed,” Turner wrote. “Even more tragically, these officials, when campaigning, identified themselves with churches, as if to say, ‘You can count on me to take a biblical, Christian position on moral issues.’ “Baptists who have allowed video poker to expand in our state will participate in the heartbreak and pain of many poor people. Mortgages will be foreclosed and children will go without meals. This is anti-family legislation. Furthermore, the blight will spread to other communities. No one realistically believes that such an evil can be limited to two venues. “To point to the power, money and organization of those in favor of such an evil is not a defense. Instead, it is more reason for vocal and determined opposition. Those who survey the culture tell us that morally, American evangelicals are not significantly different from unbelievers. I have never thought this was true of Arkansans. Now, I see evidence that it is. Shame on us.” Turner did not name names. Many legislators are Baptists, by far the largest religious denomination in the state. Sen. Bob Johnson, the lead sponsor of the gambling bill, lists his religious affiliation as Baptist. The best-known Baptist state official, however, is Gov. Mike Huckabee, a minister and former president of the Baptist State Convention. Huckabee could have vetoed the gambling bill but didn’t. He said he opposed the bill, but it would be passed over his veto anyway. At least by implication, Turner included Huckabee in his criticism. He referred to “officials” throughout his column. But the headline on the column, probably not written by Turner, seemed to exempt Huckabee from criticism. It said “Baptist legislators failed us.” Echo falls silent The Eureka Springs Times-Echo is no more. Its demise was not unexpected. For the last few years, the weekly Times-Echo, which dates from 1893, had been in competition with a new Eureka Springs weekly, the Lovely County Citizen. The Times-Echo was owned by Rust Communications, which is headquartered in Cape Girardeau, Mo., and owns a number of Arkansas newspapers. The Citizen was locally owned, by a small group who also worked at the paper. In January, Rust bought the controversy-loving Citizen and said it would continue to operate just as it had. One of the former owners was hired as editor and publisher. No announcement was made about the Times-Echo. Recently, the Citizen announced the Times-Echo would merge with another Rust-owned publication, the Star-Tribune, to form a twice-weekly paper called the Carroll County News. The Star-Tribune was formed in 2003 by the merger of papers at Berryville and Green Forest.

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