Baptist panel passes anti-pot measure
EDMOND — Oklahoma's Southern Baptists, "alarmed" about the trafficking and abuse of illegal drugs, want Oklahomans to resist efforts to legalize recreational use of marijuana in the state.
Delegates gathered Tuesday for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma's annual meeting approved a resolution expressing concern about the "rapid advance of acceptance of recreational marijuana and the trafficking and abuse" of other addictive and illegal drugs.
"We believe that every state and authority should protect its people from the trafficking of illicit drugs, and we know that the abuse of drugs leaves neighborhoods and schools vulnerable for exploitation," Baptists said in the resolution approved Tuesday at First Baptist Church of Edmond, 1300 E 33rd Street.
"We pray that the citizens of Oklahoma will oppose the legalization of recreational marijuana and that the church will be proactive through Christ-centered ministries to reach people who are addicted to substances."
Baptists shared their angst over the issue in the wake of the legalization of medical marijuana in Oklahoma. Voters across the state went to the polls in June to consider a state question to legalize medical marijuana and the measure was approved, making Oklahoma one of at least 29 states in the U.S. to legalize the medical use of the controversial drug.
The Rev. Joe Ligon, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Marlow and the Baptist convention's outgoing president, said illegal drug use was among several topics "being discussed in the culture" that Baptists targeted in resolutions Tuesday. He added that the resolution referencing recreational marijuana warns "people of the dangers of recreational drug use and also urged our churches to provide ministry to those who struggle with addiction."
A grassroots coalition of Oklahoma Christian faith leaders — including U.S. Sen. James Lankford, a former Falls Creek youth camp director, came out against efforts to legalize medical marijuana. There also were other faith leaders who spoke out for the measure.
Some opponents of the medical marijuana measure had argued that its legalization would become a slippery slope for the legalization of recreational marijuana.
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An organization called Green the Vote held a petition drive to get recreational marijuana on an Oklahoma ballot but failed to get enough signatures to do so.
In other business Tuesday, Baptist delegates elected a new slate of officers to lead the convention, including a metro-area preacher.
The Rev. Blake Gideon, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Edmond, was elected president of the convention on Tuesday. The Rev. LeRon West of Gilcrease Hills Baptist Church of Tulsa was elected first vice president, while the Rev. Heath Tucker of First Baptist Church of Skiatook was chosen as second vice president.
Monday, the first day of the convention's annual meeting, delegates installed the Rev. Hance Dilbeck as the faith group's executive director-treasurer.
Southern Baptists are the state's largest faith group, with more than 1,700 churches across the state.