Just As I Thought

With help like this…

Here’s the sort of story that fuels my anti-religious tendencies.

Hurricane victims who wanted water had some difficulty finding it at a relief station in Clewiston Friday. The volunteer group running a supply center doesn’t like the company that donated the water, so they decided not to give it to those in line for help.

Twenty-two pallets of the canned water, distributed free by beer company Anheuser-Busch, bears the company’s label – and members of the Southern Baptist Convention refused to hand it out to those in need.

Resident lined up for miles to receive food and water at the distribution point. But the water was left on the sidelines by the Alabama-based group.

“The pastor didn’t want to hand out the Budweiser cans to people and that’s his prerogative and I back him 100-percent,” said SBC volunteer John Cook.

The SBC felt it was inappropriate to give the donation out, and they weren’t happy when NBC2 wanted to know why.

“Why do you want to make that the issue? That’s not the issue. The issue is that we’re here trying to help people,” Cook said.


  • Volunteers working with the Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief Unit honored the request of the host pastor to set aside canned water with an Anheuser-Busch logo. At no time was anyone deprived of water. In fact, there was a huge surplus of bottled and canned water available at the Clewiston relief site. There was never any disruption in the supply of water being given out to members of the public who continued to receive food, water and other types of assistance from Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief workers.
    It is an absolute falsehood to suggest — as many irresponsible bloggers have — that the Baptist volunteers withheld the basic needs of life from Floridians impacted by the hurricane. Contrary to misinterpretations of news reports, no one was denied access to water.
    One may disagree with the strong stand that many Southern Baptists take against the consumption of alcohol. One may even regard such opposition to alcohol as offensive.
    But it’s impossible to say truthfully that this conviction caused any inconvenience or shortage for victims of Hurricane Wilma. The facts are exactly the opposite.
    The fact is that virtually all of the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers serve selflessly — taking time away from employment and family to minister in the name of Jesus Christ. Churches such as First Baptist Church, Clewiston, graciously serve as host sites — providing a place where food, water and other necessities of life may be obtained by anyone in need — without regard to religion or any other demographic consideration.

    — Keith Hinson, public relations associate
    Alabama Baptist Convention State Board of Missions
    Montgomery, Alabama

  • Many Southern Baptists take a strong stand against alcohol consumption. Okay, this is a perfectly reasonable conviction. But it is a personal one. And regardless of this conviction, there was water in those cans. Not alcohol.
    The problem here is that the Baptist Disaster Relief Unit took it upon themselves to force their personal convictions upon other people, and in a particularly distasteful way and in a particularly inappropriate place.
    Not distributing it because the pastor wanted to make a statement against a company — which was just as selfless as the Baptist volunteers, and probably donated far more financially — is simply an example of the kind of fundamentalist claptrap that drives so many reasonable people away from the church. Without regard to religion? I think that your carefully worded press release shows that this had everything to do with religion.

  • You said, “The problem here is that the Baptist Disaster Relief Unit took it upon themselves to force their personal convictions upon other people.”

    How does giving food and water to people “force personal convictions” on anyone?

    Were our volunteers morally bound to hand out the Anheuser-Busch water when other options were available?

    The fact is that the ample supply of water on the day in question was only depleted within the past 24 hours.

    These were Baptist volunteers working at a Baptist church in a free country.

    There was no shortage of water, but you would apparently still expect them to violate their own convictions — and those of the host pastor — and distribute the water of your choosing.

    In your last paragraph, you are absolutely correct that religious convictions drove the decision to choose which water to distribute.

    The point of my last paragraph (which you referenced) was that water was made available to everyone who needed it “without regard to religion or any other demographic consideration.”

    Thank you also for your acknowledgement that the press release was carefully worded. You have no idea about the restraint I exercised in deciding how to craft a response to the false charges and distortions being made against the Clewiston relief effort.

    Southern Baptists spend tens of millions of dollars in relief efforts each time a major disaster strikes. This money is freely given in designated offerings by church members.

    The money is spent to assist people who are hurting and in need. We don’t discriminate on the basis of religion or any other basis.

  • It is sometimes difficult — on both sides of an argument — to extricate one’s self from a point which brings forth such high emotion, usually obscuring points on which the arguers agree. In this case, the emotional point would be the actions of a pastor who was upholding his beliefs and moral code.
    The part on which we agree: that so many people turned out to volunteer their time to help others, that no one went thirsty or was turned away. Without people like this who step up to help, I shudder to think what might happen. And the fact that there was plenty of other water for victims is a very important point that was left out of the story.
    This does not negate the point of contention, however. There are many stories — some true, some not — of religious groups turning away from helping some people because they do not conform to a narrow demographic or share their beliefs. These groups bring shame to all communities of faith — in fact, they bring shame to humankind. This is what bothers me about the actions of the Clewiston pastor — he should have known that people would question this action, and not praise it. It smacks too much of a doctor who would not treat a patient because the patient is gay; or a pharmacist who won’t fill a prescription because it is against his personal beliefs. There are certain times, places, and jobs where personal beliefs must of necessity be set aside, I believe that disaster relief is one of those times.
    Religion is a very personal thing. I think it should remain personal and not forced — no matter how insignificant that “forcing” may be — on others.

  • Gene,

    I do want to express appreciation for your last posting. I think it does acknowledge the good Southern Baptists are trying to accomplish through disaster relief.

    Clearly you will continue to disagree with Southern Baptist stances on a number of issues. But thanks for your willingness to dialog and to move the discussion forward.

  • Without a doubt, that was the most polite disagreement I’ve ever seen. I’m afraid I was not as circumspect with Glen Sacks, a pro-man, anti-woman columnist. I wrote him personally and frankly told him he was a right-wing, anti-woman, anti-gay zealot.

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