Pastor Israel Leito

Pastor Israel Leito

Published: Monday | February 6, 2012 | Jamaica Gleaner

Departing from recent calls by local religious leaders for the Government to actively put a stop to betting on horse racing on Sundays, president of the Miami-based Inter- American Division of Seventh-day Adventists, Pastor Israel Leito, declared yesterday that his church does not believe in legislating its morals on people.

Leito, speaking at the 50th anniversary of the relocation of the West Jamaica Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in Montego Bay, St James, yesterday said Seventh-day adventists have shown, through their church, that they are people “loving our neigbours” and abiding by the laws of the land.

“We have shown, yes, that we don’t quarrel about horse racing on the Sabbath because we quarrel about it period,” Leito declaredduring the conference, held at the Seventh-day Adventist Conference Centre in Mount Salem under the theme ‘Reflecting on His Leading … Advancing in Hope’.

The issue of gambling at the track recently returned to the spotlight after horse racing resumed at Caymanas Park late last month and the Jamaica Council of Churches renewed its call for the activity to be scrapped.

The council’s general secretary, the Reverend Gary Harriott, said the Church was of the view that Sunday racing and all forms of gambling undermined societal values, but the Government indicated it had yet to discuss the issue.

Senator Sandrea Falconer, minister without portfolio with responsibility for information, indicated last week that the administration was aware of the sensitive nature of the issue and that she expected it would be put on the Cabinet agenda in the coming weeks.

The resumption of Sunday racing had been approved by the former Jamaica Labour Party administration but Harriott declared that the new administration should “stand up for what was right”.

The matter has ignited intense public debate with individuals both defending and criticising gambling on Sundays.

Yesterday however, Leito said the Seventh-day Adventist Church, which worships on Saturdays, did not “impose our morals and standards by legislating these on the community”.

Leito said: “We believe in telling people about the love of Jesus Christ and once this is done all vices are abandoned. This is why we don’t agitate against these things, we preach the love of Jesus to the hearts.

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