By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
RALEIGH — The Christian Action League’s efforts to help people break free from tobacco were recognized, Friday, July 17 when the North Carolina Alliance for Health and Faith United Against Tobacco presented the Rev. Mark Creech, the League’s executive director, with a framed Certificate of Appreciation.
“The faith leaders in North Carolina have been incredible to work with,” said Betsy Vetter, N.C. Director of Public Advocacy for the American Heart Association, where the honors were presented. She said appreciation awards were given to the CAL and the N.C. Council of Churches to recognize their support over the past half dozen years as a coalition of health organizations has pushed to protect residents from secondhand smoke, worked to increase cigarette taxes and to put tobacco under the control of the Food and Drug Administration.
“Rev. Creech was really down there with us so much of the time and it wasn’t just to speak in committees,” said Vetter, describing this year’s push for House Bill 2 (Prohibit Smoking in Certain Public Places). “He was there with us, walking us through it. … holding our hands and keeping the faith and keeping us going.”
Vincent DeMarco, national coordinator of Faith United Against Tobacco, said the Christian Action League played a critical role in the enactment of life-saving federal legislation that will authorize the FDA to regulate tobacco products.
“Rev. Creech wrote very powerful op-eds explaining why, as a conservative evangelical Christian, he supported this legislation, and we used these op-eds across the country to build support for the bill,” DeMarco said Wednesday. “He also took a leading role in writing letters to the North Carolina Congressional Delegation from NC faith leaders on the issue and holding press conferences about it. All this made a huge difference in the success of our efforts, and maybe thousands of lives will be saved because of Rev. Creech’s courageous and selfless acts.”
The Rev. Creech said it is a privilege to be a part of the battle for good legislation even when the “right thing” isn’t the most popular stance.
“I’m at a loss to say how important it was to me and how thankful I am that you asked us to be a part of the push for the smoking ban,” he said at the July 17 presentation. “It was the right thing to do … and really the most satisfying thing all year.”
As for the FDA bill, Creech recognized the efforts of the Rev. Brian Wingo, chair of the Board of Church and Society for the N.C. Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, who spoke in support of the measure at a January press conference held by the Christian Action League.
Amy Barkley, regional advocacy director for the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, called the Christian Action League and the Rev. Creech “extremely valuable partners.”
“He is such a powerful voice in the debate on all the issues,” Barkley said. “The faith groups bring a different perspective that we as health advocates can’t do by ourselves.”
The Rev. Creech said smoking is a national health crisis with some half a million people dying each year of smoke-related diseases.
“We are being derelict in our moral duty if we don’t raise our voices about this issue,” he said.