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James and Annie Holt were one of the youngest couples at the Athens-Limestone Quality of Life Committee’s anti-alcohol rally at Athens Bible School.
Daily photos by John Godbey
James and Annie Holt were one of the youngest couples at the Athens-Limestone Quality of Life Committee’s anti-alcohol rally at Athens Bible School.

Alcohol battle
in Athens

Drys hope to revoke city’s wet ordinance

By Holly Hollman
hhollman@decaturdaily.com · 340-2445

ATHENS — Liquor’s money can pay for television commercials.

Fighters against it can afford prayer and door-to-door and telephone campaigns.

It’s kind of like taking on a Goliath-sized opponent with pebbles.

That’s the message about 150 people received Sunday afternoon during an anti-alcohol rally at Athens Bible School.

The Athens-Limestone Quality of Life Committee held the rally to encourage a “no” vote on Aug. 14.

The question on the ballot will be “Do you favor the legal sales and distribution of alcoholic beverages in this municipality?”

The committee fought alcohol sales unsuccessfully in 2003 when Athens went wet.

However, the committee did get enough city residents’ signatures on a petition to obtain a vote next month on repealing alcohol sales.

Proponents of sales, including the Athens City Council, Mayor Dan Williams and the Greater Limestone County Chamber of Commerce, say the city will lose revenue and be unable to attract restaurants and industry without it.

Those who spoke Sunday disagree.

“Athens didn’t dry up when it was dry,” said Oakland Church of Christ preacher Jeff May.

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Don Osborne, retired Limestone County school superintendent, displays a sign referring to the biblical admonition in Ephesians 5:11, “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.”
Don Osborne said that when he served as Limestone County superintendent of education, money was on his mind 24 hours, seven days a week.

“I’m going to say a dirty word: taxes,” he said. “Fair taxes is what we need to pay for our services — not with sin money, not with Judas money.”

Osborne said it bothers him that city leaders want to prey on the weakness of their fellow man to “get money for potholes and services.”

That requires the community to hope that people will continue to consume alcohol, he said, and that its children will grow up to be consumers.

Mike Westmoreland, minister at Madison Street Baptist Church, said two things caused the committee to fail four years ago: apathy and lack of time.

“There was a real feeling that (alcohol sales) will never happen in Athens,” Westmoreland said, which led to opponents not voting.

Lack of time left the committee with little money to campaign against it as well, he said.

“This time, our campaign is in far better shape,” Westmoreland said.

After the rally, Westmoreland signed up those who have agreed to do telephone calls, go door to door, distribute handouts in their neighborhoods, drive the elderly to the polls and encourage their churches to be active.

Committee leader Eddie Gooch, minister at Isom’s Chapel United Methodist Church, said there was a third reason proponents of alcohol prevailed: lack of prayer.

“I confess that as a preacher, I did not pray enough,” Gooch said.

“I ask you to pray. I ask you to speak to your church leadership so they can put up our message on their billboards and marquees.”

Make an informed vote

Do you live in Limestone County and have questions before you vote on a proposed 1 cent sales tax increase?

Do you live in Athens and have questions about whether Athens should make alcohol sales illegal?

Both votes will be Aug. 14.

Athens voters will vote on both issues.

County voters will vote on the tax.

Send your questions to Staff Writer Holly Hollman by Monday, and she will search for the answers to run in a series of stories before the vote.

E-mail questions to tenecfan@aol.com, or leave them on her voicemail at 340-2445.

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