Baptist church in Alabama returns $25k donation from Wind Creek casinos

In Alabama, the pastor of a Baptist church in the city of Wetumpka returned a $25,000 donation from the Poarch Band of Creek Indians after a Sunday vote by members of the congregation decided that accepting the funds would be a conflict of interest.

On Tuesday, strong winds destroyed the temporary roof that was placed on the First Baptist Church of Wetumpka after the original one was destroyed by an EF2 tornado just weeks earlier.

According to local WFSW News 12…

The vote to return the check was confirmed by First Baptist Church of Wetumpka Pastor Dr. James Troglen, who said he was “extremely moved” by the tribe’s donation and that it was a clear indicator of each of the organization’s [church and casino] appreciation for contributions to the community of Wetumpka.

Monetary donations policy:

However, according to Troglen, who said the church has a specific policy in place regarding accepting monetary donations, the check was was never cashed after a majority vote at a regularly scheduled meeting was against keeping it. The pastor said that while the Sunday vote was not unanimous, he does not support “legalized gambling,” along with other church members, who also share the view and decided that accepting funds from the casino would be a conflict of interest.

Tribe’s Planned Giving Campaign:

The church that is a historical landmark, was one of a number of structures within an approximately 18-mile long tract from the city of Wetumpka to the Lake Martin area of Elmore County, that were either destroyed or severely damaged by the January tornado. And as part of its ongoing Planned Giving Campaign, the federally recognized tribe, that own and operate Wind Creek Atmore, Wind Creek Montgomery, and Wind Creek Wetumpka, officially announced (pdf) on January 29 that it was donating $100,000 to the Elmore County Disaster Relief Fund to assist residents in the city and other parts of the county who were directly affected by the January twister.

Donation dispersion:

Of the $100,000 donation, the First Baptist Church received $25,000, as did the Wetumpka Police Department, while the 150-year-old First Presbyterian Church, which is located just across the street from the Baptist church and was reduced to rubble by the tornado, received $50,000.

Gift kept by Presbyterian church:

The donation received by the First Presbyterian Church was not returned. In a January 28 report from WFSA 12 News, Pastor Jonathan Yarboro said, “We were very touched. I was very touched and the session was unanimous in accepting the gift because Wind Creek is a good community partner.” He said he was grateful for the Wind Creek Casino’s $50,000 donation, that is was a prayer answered to help the church recover.

we’re here to offer a hand

Speaking for the tribe, Wind Creek Public Relations Specialist Kristen Vaughn, said at the time, “As you can see there is so much destruction in the aftermath of the tornado that came through on the 19th and we’re here to offer a hand.”

Grateful, but:

Troglen reportedly said again that the church was grateful for the generosity of Wind Creek, and communicated that the church and its insurance company are working toward the rebuilding process. He also told WSFA 12 News that it was the hope of the church that the money it returned would be redirected to other individuals and groups affected by the storm.

Creation of Disaster Fund:

The Poarch Band of Creek Indians established the Elmore County Disaster Fund in order to assist citizens in the area who were affected by a historic tornado outbreak April 25-28 of 2011, which caused damage consistent with EF-4 damage to Central Alabama. On April 27, 2011, there were 62 confirmed tornadoes across the southern state, with a total of 29 confirmed in the central region. 

Tribe acitve in the state

The only federally recognized Indian Tribe in “The Heart of Dixie,” the Poarch Band of Creek Indians has several casinos and racetracks, which operate under Wind Creek Hospitality, a tribe-owned company. The Tribe is an active partner in the state and contributes to educational, economic, social and cultural projects, which benefit Tribal Members as well as residents of local communities and neighboring towns.

Because gambling devices are banned by the state, Alabama generally prohibits casinos, however, as the only federally recognized tribe in the state, the Poarch Band of Creek Indians legally runs three casinos there, operating each with electronic bingo machines that function just like video slots.

In addition to a few slot machines and video gambling machines, horse racing tracks and dog races along with pull-tab cards are how most of the gambling in the state takes place.

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