Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Boston Clergy to Mayor Walsh: ‘Protect the Vote of the People’

(Boston, MA, May 6, 2014)

Following weekend reports that Mayor Marty Walsh may be in direct negotiations with Mohegan Sun regarding a proposed casino at Suffolk Downs, more than forty Boston-area clergy are urging Mayor Walsh to uphold the “no casino” vote that took place in East Boston on Nov. 5, 2013. 

In a joint letter signed by Protestant, Catholic, Jewish and Muslim leaders and submitted to the mayor’s office today, the clergy expressed alarm at the ongoing “affront to the democratic process” amid efforts to approve up to one casino in Eastern Massachusetts, and called on Mayor Walsh to “use the full resources of the city of Boston to protect the vote of the people.”

The letter articulates the legal terms of the Nov. 5 vote, which included the residents of East Boston being legally entrusted with the city’s vote by the Boston City Council, as well as being constantly assured that the Suffolk Downs casino proposal required a yes” vote in both Boston and Revere to proceed. 

“The people of East Boston voted against that proposal,” the letter continues. “Despite this vote and in direct opposition to the will of the people, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission allowed a proposal to go forward at Suffolk Downs.”

While there has been solidarity around this issue among East Boston ministers since November, critical to the present initiative is the increasing involvement of clergy throughout Boston as a whole.  The additional support from ministers across the city is directly attributable to the ignoring of East Boston’s vote by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, local elected officials, and now perhaps Mayor Walsh, says Rev. Dr. David Searles of Central Assembly of God Church in East Boston, who assisted in writing the letter.

There were two significant questions on the November 5 ballot, the mayoral election question and the casino question,” Searles says. “If the casino vote did not count, then why should the mayor’s vote count?  There’s simply no logic to this.”

The clergy insist their initiative is not simply about being against a casino, adding that they “support business development and job creation that produces long-term economic health.”  Even still, the letter states, “a casino’s long-term negative impacts would far outweigh the promises.”

Reports that the city may be open to negotiating with Mohegan Sun and Suffolk Downs have increased the clergy’s resolve. “We’re not giving up and we’re not going away,” says Trent Sheppard, Alpha New England’s Collegiate Chaplain and an East Boston resident.  “East Boston’s future is bright, and that future – according to the will of the people – is casino-free.”

The ministers’ letter can be read in full at www.friendsofeastboston.com and clergy signature gathering will continue unabated throughout the week.


May 6, 2014

Dear Mayor Walsh,
We appreciate your vision to strengthen local neighborhoods and to work toward unity that we may be One Boston. As clergy in Boston we share your commitment to the city and the desire for all people to have an opportunity to live peaceful and fruitful lives.

In September 2013 the Boston City Council entrusted the residents of East Boston to represent the entire city of Boston in a vote on a casino proposal at Suffolk Downs. The Suffolk Downs property, located in two host communities (East Boston and Revere), required a “Yes” vote in both communities to proceed.

It was clear this was never about two different proposals in East Boston or Revere, but always about one proposal at Suffolk Downs.

On November 5, 2013, the people of East Boston voted against that proposal. Despite this vote and in direct opposition to the will of the people, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission allowed a proposal to go forward at Suffolk Downs in December 2013.

We are deeply concerned by this affront to the democratic process and we stand in solidarity with the East Boston vote. We appreciate your efforts to support the November 5 vote against a casino at Suffolk Downs and we call upon you to continue to use the full resources of the city of Boston to protect the vote of the people who clearly said "No" to a casino.

We support business development and job creation that produces long-term economic health in the city. While the possibility of new jobs from the Suffolk Downs proposal is alluring at first glance, a casino’s long-term negative impacts far outweigh the promises.

A significant increase in crime rates, the doubling of gambling addictions, and the transfer of revenue from the local economy into casino coffers would harm individuals and families, and would negatively impact local businesses by effectively eliminating 1-2 jobs for every slot machine – and there will be approximately 4,000 slot machines installed at the proposed casino. These impacts would not only be felt in East Boston, but in every neighborhood throughout the city.

We join together with you to support the vitality of our neighborhoods, the unity of Boston, and Boston’s vote for a casino free community.


Rev. Dr. David Searles, Central Assembly of God Church, East Boston
Rev. Gordon P. Hugenberger, PhD, Park Street Congregational Church, Boston
Rev. Roberto Miranda, PhD, Congregacion Leon de Juda, Boston
Fr. Felipe Gonzales, Cathedral of the Holy Cross, Boston
Rabbi Ronne Friedman, Temple Israel, Boston
Rev. Neal Armandt, South End Neighborhood Church, Boston
Rabbi Howard Berman, Central Reform Temple, Boston
Rabbi Joseph Berman, Revere
Rev. Mark Booker, Church of the Cross, Boston
Pastor Tim Bogertman, First Congregational Church, Revere
Rev. Lynn Breitenbach, Chi Alpha Campus Ministries, Boston
Rev. Terry Burke, First Church in Jamaica Plain, Unitarian Universalist, Boston 

Pastora Alicia Climaco, Iglesia Profetica Internacional Ciudad de Sion, East Boston 
Rev. Dr. Gregg Detwiler, Emmanuel Gospel Center, Boston
Rev. Thomas S. Domurat, Most Holy Redeemer Parish, East Boston
Rev. Michael D'Urso, Eagle Heights Church, Revere
Rev. Laura E. Everett, Executive Director, Massachusetts Council of Churches, Boston 

Rev. Nick Fatato, Common Church, Boston
Imam Ismail Fenni, Yusuf Mosque, Brighton
Rev. Nicholas G. Granitsas, First Congregational Church, Revere
Dr. Douglas Hall, President, Emmanuel Gospel Center, Boston
Judy Hall, Assistant to the President, Emmanuel Gospel Center, Boston
Rabbi Sandi Intraub, Revere
Pastor Jowulu Jaidah, Central Assembly of God Church, East Boston
Rev. Christo A. Kamara, St. Paul's Victory Christian Assembly of God, Mattapan 

Pastor Bernardo Leya, Central Assembly of God Church, East Boston
Deacon Frank McHugh, Most Holy Redeemer Parish, East Boston
Rev David C. McNeely, New England Leadership Institute, Dorchester
Rabbi Bernard H. Mehlman, Temple Israel, Boston
Rev. Dr. Roberto Miranda, Congregacion Leon de Juda, Boston
Rev. Don Nanstad, Our Saviour's Lutheran Church, East Boston
Rabbi Barbara Penzner, Temple Hillel B'nai Torah, West Roxbury
Kristopher Perkins, Associate Pastor, Park Street Church, Boston
Rev. Peter Raftery, Assembly of God, Boston
Rabbi Victor Reinstein, Nehar Shalom Community Synagogue, Boston
Rev. Israel J. Rodriguez, St. Joseph ́s Parish, Lynn
Trent Sheppard, Collegiate Chaplain, Alpha New England, East Boston
Rabbi Matthew Soffer, Temple Israel, Boston
Rev. George Szal, S.M., Immaculate Conception Parish, Revere
Rev. Wendy Vanderhart, United Church of Christ, Boston
Pastor David Michael Wenrich, Boston Harbor Community Church, Boston
Matthew Whelan, Freedom Mission International & Boston Hope, East Boston 

Pastor Claudio Yeme, Iglesia Palabras de Vida, East Boston
Rev. Louis Zinnanti, Christ the Rock Church, Dorchester