Published July 31, 2008
BUTLER — The Georgia primary election results were somewhat predictable. I suppose the most visible contest was the Democrats’ race for the United States Senate seat. Vernon Jones and Jim Martin vanquished three first-time candidates and will face each other in an August 5 runoff.
There were some interesting contests in troubled Clayton County where embattled Sheriff Victor Hill nearly squeaked by without a runoff but will have to face Kem Kimbrough Aug. 5 in a special election.
However, one of the most significant votes came from Taylor County, where voters were charged with the responsibility of voting on two alcohol-related issues on the ballot.
The first issue was stated: “Shall the governing authority of Taylor County be authorized to issue licenses to sell distilled spirits for beverage purposes by the drink, such as sales to be for consumption only on the premises?”
The second issue dealt with the sale of distilled spirits “for consumption on the premises only … in private clubs”.
All of the Taylor County commissioners, with the exception of Jerry Albritton, approved the motion to put the referendum on the ballot. Eddie Wren, pastor of First Baptist in Butler, commented, “The fact that the referendum was on the ballot was kept pretty quiet at first. No one really talked about it. I called a few pastors to ask if they knew about it and they did not.”
Wren proceeded to write every pastor in the county to encourage them to advise their congregation of the referendum and urge their people to vote “no” to distilled spirits. The First Baptist pastor included in the letter a copy of the official ballot so there would be no confusion as to how people should vote.
Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church and Bethel Congregational Methodist Church joined First Baptist in the fight against legalizing liquor-by-the-drink. The churches ordered five hundred signs that read, “Vote NO to Distilled Spirits.” The signs were distributed to church members who were instructed to put the signs in their yards.
Wren addressed the county commissioners at their monthly meeting that was aired on the local access TV channel. He reminded them of the dangers of alcohol and challenged them to be ministers of good rather than evil. Wren also addressed the Butler City Council and urged them to use their influence to defeat the ill-advised referendum.
On June 1 Wren preached a sermon on Proverbs 23:29-35, which he called “The Great Deception.” In his passionate appeal to First Baptist Church Wren declared, “I believe the Bible tells us that a Christian should abstain from alcohol.”
In concluding his sermon the bold pastor said, “Do you really think Taylor county needs to sell distilled spirits in our restaurants? That is one of the most ludicrous proposals that has ever been put on a ballot. Those county commissioners should be ashamed of themselves.”
Wren stated, “I believe in total abstinence from alcohol. Strong drink is condemned in the Bible. My father died at 40 from alcoholism. He never saw me grow up. He never heard me preach a sermon. He never met his grandchildren or his daughters-in-law.
“Alcohol destroys lives and families and costs the United States economy between 40 and 60 billion dollars a year. At one point Time magazine reported that 50 percent of all murders were alcohol-related and eighty percent of all crimes reported are alcohol-related. Alcohol contributes to 100,000 deaths annually in the U.S.”
What happened as a result of the formidable fight waged by those who embrace abstinence in Taylor County? They won the battle. The first referendum was defeated by a margin of 1145 to 924 and the second referendum was spoiled by a margin of 1210 to 933.
Wren added, “I truly believe that if we had kept silent, if we had not waged a full-fledged campaign against this referendum, the community would have voted for it. We must continue to engage the culture. We must not, cannot continue to be silent and allow our communities to become havens for evil. If we will sacrifice and fight for what is right, God will honor that. One might not get the vote he or she wants, but those who fight for what is right will never lose.”
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