Sunday, October 15, 2006

The charity gambling double standard

Last night I was able to assist at the fall edition of the Knights of Columbus charity spaghetti dinner at my Morristown Council. The funds from this event (and we raised over a thousand dollars) goes to the myriad of charities that the Knights support in Upper East Tennessee. The spaghetti, biscotti, and chianti that was served were all delicious, and it should come as no surprise that our K of C charity cooks did a phenomenal job.

One of the charities that is served by the Knights' charitable work is the Knights of Columbus Home for Mentally Challenged Men in Morristown, Tennessee. The home is one of the few of its kind remaining in the country, in the sense that it was established by the K of C and continues to be sponsored by a local K of C Council and overseen by a board of directors made up entirely of local Knights of Columbus. The "Knights' Home," as it is known locally, provides a more independent living option to seven adult men who might otherwise be forced into far more undesirable living conditions. Because the men served by the home are able to live there, most hold down a job of some kind, earn their own money, however meager by our poor standards, and are able to be as independent as their situation in life might allow them. At these spaghetti dinners, the men of the home are our honored guests.

The Morristown Council of the K of C holds various fundraisers throughout the year, but could raise more money if State law allowed for the simple means to raise more funds that are proven to be effective.

Under current Tennessee law, raffles are illegal unless you get a one-time $500 permit, something that eats up profit margin. Yes, I know lots of establishments hold raffles, but in all truth they are violating the law-local law enforcement simply turns a blind eye in most cases. The difference between the Knights and many other groups is that as a Catholic organization, we will follow the directives of our Bishop, who has declared that we are not to do anything in violation of the law even if local law enforcement turns a blind eye to the activity.

A change in the law would be a just alternative.

Charity raffles and charity bingo provide the kind of income for the work of societies like the Knights that simple dues and dinners could never provide. If the Knights raised their dues to the level required to maintain our charity work, the Knights would become not merely a Catholic Order, but a society of the wealthiest of the Catholic elite. It is not in our mission to be an organization that promotes elitism.

I realize that many of our evengelical Protestant brethren have a terrible aversion to amending our State's gambling laws. I could see maintaining this position in regards to State law if the lottery had not passed. Now that it has passed and is in effect, our State operates based on a double-standard: It is alright for the State of Tennessee to run a massive and multi-faceted gambling operation in which the money is supposed to go to education, but it is illegal for an organization which devotes the vast majority of its existing income to charity to run a regular raffle or bingo. I daresay that the Knights of Columbus are far better when it comes to charitable distribution than the State of Tennessee-our people are in the community addressing its needs each and every day.

Consider this double standard...and then consider collectively addressing it.



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