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Voter apathy is the death of democracy Bahamian bishop warns: The Church of England Newspaper, February 3, 2013 p 7. February 5, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of the West Indies, Gambling.
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The democratic process is more important to civil society than the outcome of any election, the Anglican Bishop in Nassau said on Sunday, as he urged Bahamians to go to the polls this week and make their voice heard in the country’s gambling referendum. The Rt. Rev. Laish Boyd, Bishop of the Bahamas and Turks & Caicos Islands, said that while the church opposed gambling, it would not tell people how to vote.

“At this junction it is not important to focus on who will vote ‘yes’ and who will note ‘no’, since persons are entitled to their considered position on the subject, and since people will form and hold their own opinions,” the bishop said.

The “issue now is citizen participation,” Bishop Boyd said. “I call on every registered voter to go out and to vote on Monday, January 28.”

Tourists are permitted to gamble in the island’s casinos, but no legal form of gambling is allowed for Bahamians. However, an illegal but widespread lottery known as the numbers or policy is popular across the islands. A common form of gambling in urban America before the legalization of state lotteries, in the numbers game a gambler places a bet with a bookie in a betting parlor (most often bars, barbershops and other semi-public venues)  hoping to select the winning three digit number drawn at random.

The bishop said the diocese “does not support the legalization of the numbers business. This remains our position since stated publicly in 2010 and before that.”

But he was also concerned about voter apathy. “Some people have concluded that they will stay out of the process,” Bishop Boyd said. “This is wrong because your vote is important.”

“We are blessed in this country with many freedoms, e.g., freedom of religion, association and expression, the freedom to hold and to express different opinions and the privilege of free and fair elections,” the bishop said.

“Make sure you fulfill your national responsibility by casting your ballot in the referendum.”

While a few prominent pastors have called for the legalization of the numbers game, the Bahamian Christian Council has urged the country to vote “no” to the proposal that supporters say would raise revenue for the government and take the numbers game out of the hands of criminals. Church leaders, including Bishop Boyd, have urged voters to say “no”, saying the financial rewards to the state of gambling are outweighed by the social and moral costs it imposes on the people.

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