The Lottery Responds
I am writing regarding your recent cover story on the Louisiana Lottery Corporation ("Scratching the Surface," May 31).
As you know, several staff members worked closely with Gambit Weekly in gathering information on Louisiana Lottery operations. Unfortunately, there were serious errors and misleading information in his story:
Unclaimed prizes monies do not total "$86 million annually." This fiscal year 2003-2004 total was $8.6 million. Had this fact been reported accurately, it would have altered succeeding story content and reaction about potential state usage of $86 million, which is nonexistent.
There are no Louisiana-based printers that have the mechanical and technical capabilities to print lottery tickets. Lottery-ticket printers must be able to apply a latex cover and, at the same time, randomly generate a predetermined number of winning and non-winning numbers and symbols beneath the latex while, at the same time, meet stringent security requirements.
There is no Louisiana-based company that owns and operates on-line terminals required by lotteries to generate Powerball, Lotto, Cash Quest, Pick 4 and Pick 3 tickets. The Gambit Weekly story generates an erroneous impression that our major vendor contracts were going to out-of-state firms when they could be going to in-state business.
The allocation of lottery proceeds was never promised for education. While there was discussion of using lottery proceeds for education during legislative debate, the constitutional amendment approved by a 69-31 statewide vote clearly stated that lottery revenues would go to the general fund administered by the state Department of Treasury.
I would appreciate your cooperation in setting the record straight for your readers.
Director of Communication
Louisiana Lottery Corporation
Editor's note: Lehew is correct -- the unclaimed prizes total $8.6 million. Gambit Weekly regrets the error. However, state Rep. Steve Scalise's bill to use the uncollected prizes to help fund education was filed last year -- not as a reaction to Gambit Weekly's story. Gambit Weekly reported that Louisiana Lottery public information officer Kimberly Chopin stated that many of the lottery's vendors "offer services that don't necessarily exist in Louisiana." Also, Gambit Weekly did not report that lottery proceeds were initially promised for education. "Scratching the Surface" quoted Louisiana Lottery president Randy Davis, who stated, "One of the biggest misconceptions the public ever had was that lottery proceeds were going to education since day one."
No Amen for Peters
Re: Greg Peters' "Suspect Device" cartoon titled "An Epiphany" in your May 31 issue.
Although it may be popular in some circles to ridicule the Tangipahoa Parish School Board for its legal battles with the ACLU, name-calling and inaccuracies add nothing to a serious dialogue on religion in the public arena. Yes, the board lost by the narrowest of margins an attempt to require that a statement be read before the teaching of evolution that it was the right and privilege of each student to form his own beliefs on the origin of life. When a three-judge panel of the federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals held the statement violated the Establishment Clause, seven judges dissented and voted to rehear the case en banc -- one short of the required number.
The board did not lose its legal fight with the ACLU over allowing ministers to visit students. That case was settled upon terms of a consent decree, which authorized ministers and non-school persons to attend meetings of student-run religious organizations held in school facilities.
The current legal dispute involves the right of a school board to open its meetings with a prayer in the same way that Congress does. In a 25-page decision, Judge Helen Ginger Berrigan ruled school boards were different. The board's decision to appeal this ruling is hardly an exercise in futility owing to "fundamentalist whackjobs." In Marsh v. Chambers (1993), the U.S. Supreme Court held, "[t]o invoke Divine guidance on a public body entrusted with making laws is not ... an 'establishment' of religion or a step towards establishment; it is simply a tolerable acknowledgement of beliefs widely held among the people of this country." Gov. Kathleen Blanco, the Louisiana School Boards Association and others have agreed to support the board's appeal.
The cartoon's reference to the alleged child abuse scandal at a Ponchatoula church misses the mark and diminishes the devastation visited upon these innocent children. The despicable crimes of a few individuals should not be used to malign all of the many good and decent people of Tangipahoa Parish.
With respect to the cartoon's claim of mediocre test scores (which ironically contained a misspelled word), it is true that student performance in this relatively poor parish ranks at or near the national average as measured by the Iowa Tests. But test scores in Tangipahoa have generally risen over the last five years.
Whether prayer actually imparts divine guidance to our elected officials depends upon whom you ask. This much is certain -- so long as there are math tests, there will be prayer in school.
A. Kirk Gasperecz
Attorney for Tangipahoa Parish School Board