No church can remain untouched by the drug crisis, says antidrug leader Bishop Felton May. Churches are fighting back.

A year and a half ago, members of the A. P. Shaw United Methodist Church in southeast Washington, D.C., were gathered for an evening prayer meeting, when a drug turf battle erupted nearby. Two young men wounded by gunfire tried to seek sanctuary in the church. They got as far as the front entrance, where they collapsed, bringing the drug wars to the church’s doorstep. Church members at the meeting came out to pray with the young men as they awaited an ambulance; the two men died.

That incident, says Pastor Bernard Keels, served as the “clarion call” for his congregation to enlist in the war against drugs. “That really showed the church that God has placed us here for a reason,” Keels said.

Who’s Winning?

“We’re on the road to victory,” President Bush declared at the end of 1990, backed by statistics released by his administration. Bush’s optimistic report had been preceded by comments from drug czar William Bennett when he left his post in November, saying things are “now getting better.” And in December, a survey released by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) suggested that 72 percent fewer Americans regularly use cocaine today, compared to five years ago, and about 25 percent fewer had tried some illegal drug in the past year.

But statisticians have criticized the methodology of the NIDA study, saying it substantially undercounted hard-core crack users and depended too much on self-reporting. And drug-treatment specialists and pastors on the front lines are especially skeptical of purported victory.

In southeast Washington, Pastor ...

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