TIFTON -- Members of 18 local churches plan to make phone calls and circulate petitions in a last-ditch effort to prevent a proposed liquor referendum from making it onto the November ballot.

"I believe the best course of events would be for us to attempt to effectually stop this Monday night," Northside Baptist pastor Dr. Fred Evers told a group of ministers and concerned citizens at a meeting Thursday. "It will be better for the community if we don't have to face this at the ballot box."

The pastors picked up copies of a petition to take to their congregations and made plans to have the petitions back at Northside by noon Monday, in time for them to go to the joint city-county meeting on Monday night. They also took lists of elected officials' telephone numbers.

"Get every single person you can to call and tell them 'We want you to vote no'," Evers urged. "We need to defeat this issue."

Monday's decisions will determine whether the liquor issue comes up for a vote for sales in the city, in unincorporated areas or both. Because of changes in state law, voters in both areas do not have to approve the measure for it to take effect. If it is approved in the city only, for example, liquor sales would be legal there but not in unincorporated areas.

Evers, speaking to occasional nods and 'amens' from the 50 or so people at the meeting, said there are five reasons he is against liquor: Because Tifton is a great place to live, because liquor hurts people, because revenues raised by liquor are not a sound financial investment, because approval could be a slippery slope and because it will divide the community.

He added that this issue has nothing to do with separation of church and state. "A church can do whatever it wants to do as long as it does not endorse a political candidate or give them money," he said. "If you do that, you're breaking the law and can lose your tax-exempt status. But you can address an issue of morality."

Church members should "act like Jesus," he said, and not malign their opponents. "We will not win votes by being ugly," said Evers. "God don't like ugly. He won't bless it. If you're going to sling mud, I'd rather you not be associated with me."

The churches, including Baptist, Church of God, Assembly of God and Church of Christ congregations, plan to make a prayer chain at the administrative building as the governments meet at 6 p.m. Monday.

To contact city editor Florence Rankin, call 382-4321, ext. 209.

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