Though churches in Canada differ dramatically on many theological, social, and political fronts, one battleground is bringing together Left, Right, and center. Across the spectrum, churches are alarmed by the social costs of legal gambling and the growing dependence of government on its cut of gambling revenues. They have been fighting back, and in a few cases, church leaders have turned down their share of gambling receipts.

Late last year, the Toronto-based Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) released "Gambling: A Bad Bet," calling the habit "an insidious form of evil which takes advantage of the poor and disadvantaged and undermines a healthy and just society." More recently, the United Church of Canada, the country's largest and most liberal Protestant denomination, called for a federal inquiry into the social, economic, and legal impact of gambling.

In Canada, churches can benefit financially from gambling receipts. Provincial governments collect a portion of the winnings from all casinos and video lottery terminals (VLT). Then, part of those funds are distributed to charitable organizations, which apply for grants.

Yet several denominations have publicly refused to accept funds from gambling. The bishop of a Roman Catholic diocese in northern Canada went so far as to ban bingo in his jurisdiction when he realized some people were spending grocery money on gambling. Vancouver's Anglican mayor has staunchly refused to allow casino expansion in the west coast city.

Antigambling efforts are getting results. In other issues, says political scientist Geoffrey Hale of London, Ontario, Christians often feel that dealing with politicians is futile. "It's like Sysiphus rolling the rock up the hill over and over again. A lot of ...

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