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« on: April 25, 2005, 04:20:08 PM »

Alabama Gambling Interests Accused of Trying to Stifle Free Speech

by Ed Thomas
April 25, 2005

(AgapePress) - For the last four weeks, a group of 10 state senators in Alabama has been filibustering a bill that the lawmakers believe is backed by the gambling lobby, and the head of the state Christian Coalition believes the legislation is designed to hurt the political efforts of groups like his that are working against that lobby.

John Giles is president of the Christian Coalition of Alabama. He says the bill known as HB 75, which was approved in the State House last year, would require the donor list of his and other issue advocacy nonprofit groups be disclosed -- a requirement which he believes would open those on the list up to attack.

"HB 75 was a bill that was basically created about three years ago by the gambling interests in Alabama," Giles asserts, "because they wanted to try to intimidate the donors of the Christian Coalition, to get us out of the way so they could pass gambling legislation in the State of Alabama."

The Christian Coalition spokesman maintains that the intent of the bill is to quash free-speech rights by pressuring the donors on the list until they withdraw their support from the Christian organization. He says publicizing the donors' list would essentially put the pro-family group and its supporters "in a posture of being retaliated against," which would undoubtedly cause donors to withdraw and ultimately limit free speech.

Giles says while this conflict has been ignored by the media, it has fundamental importance for the future of Alabama and the gambling debate. "Our type activity and the activity of [other nonprofit Christian groups] are basically issue advocacies," he contends, "and that's been defined by the courts as free speech. Well, you cannot regulate or legislate and [thereby] limit and chill free speech."

According the Alabama Christian Coalition president, HB 75 is a veiled attempt to suppress the First Amendment rights of those who oppose the gambling interests. He urges all Alabama citizens to call their state senators' offices and demand a no vote on the legislation.
Ed Thomas, a regular contributor to AgapePress, is a reporter for American Family Radio News, which can be heard online.


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