Blogger Josh Tinley reports that “United Methodist Communications (UMCom) has terminated its relationship with Buntin Group, the company responsible for the…’Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors’ campaign, because of Buntin’s work with the Tennessee Lottery.”
UMCom hired Buntin eight years ago to put together what the Nashville Post then described as a campaign that “is believed to be the most expensive ad campaign ever funded by a mainline Protestant denomination.”
Three years later, the Tennessee Lottery approached Buntin, but the agency rebuffed the entreaty because, according to president and CEO Jeffrey Buntin, the advertising company didn’t want to “jeopardize the relationship” with the United Methodist Church.
Then, a few months ago, things changed. Buntin decided to accept the Lottery’s business. Apparently, UMCom refused to be open-minded and closed the door on Buntin.
I say “Bravo” to UMCom. Methodists have historically (and with good reason – PDF) opposed state-sponsored gambling. It’s nice to see UMCom take a stand.
Thinking more about this: The Buntin/UMCom dust-up makes me wonder about all the UM-related colleges in Georgia that happily accept lottery-funded HOPE scholarship money, much of it coming from the poor (PDF).
The Associated Press reports that “the heaviest lottery players — the 20% of players who contribute 82% of lottery revenue — disproportionately are low-income, minority men who have less than a college education.”
Do any of our UM college presidents and financial-aid officers feel even a twinge of guilt over that? And what about all the UM parents who seem untroubled over sending their kids off to college at the expense of tens of thousands of lottery losers?
One parent I engaged in conversation about this told me her moral objections to the gambling-funded scholarship “went away once the college bills start coming in.”
She is not alone. The Georgia state lottery, narrowly approved in a statewide referendum in 1992, has almost no vocal opposition anymore. Our moral concerns have been overridden by free flowing money for college (and for gambling-funded pre-kindergarten).
The lottery was “sold” to the the people of Georgia on the premise that it would be a boon to education. And, no question, it has raised lots of money for students and schools. But surely the most significant way it has affected education is by teaching kids, parents, and schools (even Christian colleges) that an admirable end justifies a morally questionable means.
Yes, we have learned that lesson all too well.
Related update: The National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling is launching a new campaign next week. NCALG’s longtime field director and spokesman is UM clergyman Tom Grey.