Religion Today Summaries - September 28, 2005

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries - September 28, 2005

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world. In today's edition:

  • Controversy Over FEMA's Plan to Provide Reimbursement to Churches and Faith Groups that Helped Hurricane Victims

  • Baptist Relief Not Interested In Government Funds, Reccord Says 

  • Assessing Needs and Working Alongside Churches to Provide Emergency Supplies

  • School's Religious Pictures Come Down ... Churches' Petition Goes Out

Controversy Over FEMA's Plan to Provide Reimbursement to Churches and Faith Groups that Helped Hurricane Victims
Agape Press

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has agreed to provide some reimbursement for churches and other faith groups that have helped hurricane victims, and already the plan is generating controversy. The Washington Post calls it the first time the government has undertaken to reimburse faith-based groups who have helped out following natural disasters. According to the report, religious groups that operated emergency shelters, food distribution centers or medical facilities at the request of state and local government in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama would be eligible. A FEMA spokesman says claims could include labor costs incurred in excess of normal operations, rent for the facility, and delivery of essential needs like food and water. As expected, opposition is already being voiced. Barry Lynn of the group Americans United for the Separation of Church and State accuses the Bush administration of trying to make what he calls "right-wing groups" happy. He says churches should not be paid for their good works. Meanwhile, groups such as the Southern Baptists say they will not apply for the reimbursement money. A Southern Baptist spokesman says volunteer labor is just that, volunteer, and the denomination would never ask the government to pay for it.

Baptist Relief Not Interested In Government Funds, Reccord Says
Martin King, Baptist Press

Southern Baptist disaster relief response is not contingent on government reimbursement, according Robert E. (Bob) Reccord, president of the entity that coordinates the SBC's national disaster response. In a front-page story in The Washington Post Sept. 27, Reccord said, "Volunteer labor is just that: volunteer. We would never ask for the government to pay for it." Reccord's comments were included in a story concerning the announcement by the FEMA that it will reimburse churches and other religious organizations that have provided shelter, food and supplies to survivors of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Liberal civil liberty groups were quick to condemn FEMA's action as violating the so-called separation of church and state. Reccord told another national news media outlet that he appreciated the government providing a level playing field for relief. Reccord put the value of Southern Baptists' disaster relief labor at about $9 million. When asked if he expected reimbursement for the labor, he said, "No, that's not our focus. Our focus is volunteering. The only reimbursement we get is from the Red Cross for the food we serve."

Assessing Needs and Working Alongside Churches to Provide Emergency Supplies
World Vision

Through a partnership with the "Friendships" ministry organization based in Port Mercy on Lake Charles, Louisiana, World Vision has begun responding to the needs of people where Hurricane Rita hit hardest -- near the Texas/Louisiana border where it made landfall. Friendships ministry has a ship in Gretna, Louisiana, which is assisting New Orleans hurricane survivors. A second ship, the Spirit of Hope, was docked near Lake Charles when Hurricane Rita roared over. Friendships' warehouse facilities at Port Mercy were severely damaged by the hurricane, so World Vision is helping the ministry to both repair its facilities and keep its critical relief activities operational through a cash grant. In addition, two truckoads of donated bottled water and hygiene kits have been delivered for distribution by the Friendships, which are also providing food and other supplies to stranded hurricane survivors and returnees. World Vision is also continuing to respond, through local churches and other partners, to the devastation from Hurricane Katrina. World Vision is a Christian relief and development organization. Motivated by our faith in Jesus, we serve the poor - regardless of a person's religion, race, ethnicity, or gender - as a demonstration of God's unconditional love for all people. (www.worldvision.org

School's Religious Pictures Come Down ... Churches' Petition Goes Out
Jim Brown, AgapePress

A coalition of churches in a small Illinois county is protesting a decision by a local junior high school to confiscate pictures of Jesus and The Lord's Supper. Citing legal liability concerns, the Anna School Board decided to remove the three religious pictures -- two portraits of Christ and a reproduction of Leonardo Da Vinci's "The Last Supper" -- from the walls of Anna Junior High School, where they had hung for half a century.  The move comes after the group Americans United for Separation of Church and State called on the district to remove the pictures, calling their presence in the school "grossly unconstitutional."  Upon advice from its legal counsel, the district complied. Local churches outraged over the decision are now circulating a petition to get the pictures re-hung. Pastor Al Campbell is president of the Union County Alliance of Churches. School superintendent Bob O'Dell expressed to The Southern Illinoisan his belief that many people in the district were fine with their presence, but that it was obvious someone was not and contacted Americans United, which does not have a state chapter. As for Pastor Campbell, he believes ignorance of the Constitution and anti-Christian bigotry are at play. Campbell says the Alliance of Churches will present the petition to the Anna School Board at its October 18 meeting.

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