Meanwhile, the expansion of gambling under Question 7 has also drawn heated opposition from pastors of black churches in the county. If approved, a new casino would likely be built at National Harbor by MGM Resorts.
“The way to financial prosperity in this county is not going to be at the gambling table,” Davis said in an interview. “The downside is too big. People in our congregation who can avoid traveling to a casino now may not if it is that much closer. Those who can least afford it will go.”
Mix it all together and it’s made for an intense round of soul-searching as voters reflect.
As Sylvia Tyner walked out of First Baptist Church last Sunday, the line from Davis’s sermon about the election and “standing on the word of God” was still resonating.
“I heard what he said,” said Tyner, a retired schoolteacher. “I’m praying about it. It’s kind of hard to decide what you would want to do, but you have to pray over it.”
Tyner, 82, explained: “I believe in what the Bible says: that God created man and woman.”
But she keeps coming back to another idea that’s proved important in her lifetime: “It’s only to be fair to other people,” she said. “I’m gonna vote, I know that. I pray I’ll know which way before I go.”
Tyner wasn’t alone. From latecomers in the back to choir members clad in white, many throughout the Highland Park sanctuary were in the same position.
“Can’t nobody judge you but God,” said Brian Snowden, 34. “I think [gays] should have the same rights as other people, but the Bible does say that marriage is between a man and a woman, and we can’t redo what the Bible says.”
Deacon Larry Harper, 74, a limousine driver who has been a member of First Baptist since 1965, was more resolute, even if it meant going against the Rev. Al Sharpton, who has spoken out in favor of Maryland’s same-sex marriage law. “I believe in civil rights, but anything going against God’s law, I am not for it, and Rev. Al Sharpton and I are friends.”
A few rows behind Harper, Howard Stone, in a thick, brown pinstriped suit and closely cropped white beard, was less worried about same-sex marriage than the gambling measure, which he supports.
“I try to be a great Baptist, and I love my pastor, but this is a bread-and-butter issue,” said Stone, the county’s former chief administrative officer. “Charity begins at home. We need to get this money here.”
Stone also went against his pastor on same-sex marriage, which he intends to support.
“This has been an especially big issue in the black church,” he said. “I appreciate our pastor’s recommendation, but it’s up to me how I’m going to vote.”
Scott Clement contributed to this report.