Faith-based FEMA? Action Alert!
The national Freedom From Religion Foundation has asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to immediately remove "Operation Blessing" from its list of endorsed charities to donate cash to for victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Operation Blessing, an evangelical Christian charity, was founded by Rev. Pat ("take him out") Robertson. Robertson still serves on its national board.
Operation Blessing is given a place of prominence at the FEMA website. Operation Blessing appears third on a list of charities overwhelmingly dominated by religious groups.
The governmental endorsement of Operation Blessing has been a media boon for the Christian group, with wire services, newspapers, television and other media widely publicizing FEMA's promotion of it.
Operation Blessing describes its mission as seeking "to exemplify Christian compassion and benevolence while conforming to the highest standards of integrity."
Surely, before FEMA refers citizens to Operation Blessing, it should expect that a board "conforming to the highest standards of integrity" would have long ago expelled Pat Robertson.
Rev. Robertson has deeply shamed the country by his notorious suggestion that the United States ought to assassinate Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. This unforgivable remark is just the latest in a long string of embarrassing and outlandish pronouncements, such as his 2003 suggestion that "maybe we need a very small nuke thrown" at State Department offices.
While the secular American Red Cross is deservedly first on the list of FEMA-endorsed charities, followed by the secular America's Second Harvest, there appear to be only two other groups of the list of 21 charities which are secular.
The American Red Cross has a Congressional charter to provide assistance to victims of catastrophes. It does not care if recipients are Baptists, Hindus or atheists. Its mission is solely "to provide relief to victims of disasters and help people prevent, prepare for, and respond to emergencies" and it does not proselytize victims.
By contrast, Operation Blessing, which was founded by evangelist Robertson in 1978, boasts a fundamentalist Christian Statement of Faith. Any assistance which it may provide has the agenda of promoting the bible, belief in the trinity, the imminent return of Jesus Christ, and worldwide evangelization.
While FEMA might certainly include a sentence encouraging U.S. citizens to give to the charities of their choice, FEMA swims into dangerous waters when it starts selecting some denominational charities, while leaving out others. FEMA appears to be using its governmental power and prestige to endorse some religions and ignore others.
Most egregiously, FEMA's list overwhelmingly endorses religious over secular charities.
Believers are free to give to the churches and religious agencies of their choice, but it is not appropriate for our federal government to be telling them to do so. Should we not be donating as Americans to help other Americans, regardless of faith or lack of faith?
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, which has donated to American Red Cross 2005 Hurricane Season Relief, reiterates its advice that freethinkers and the public donate to the secular Red Cross, which is in the stricken areas, does not ask recipients their religion or pray at them while giving them help, and has the massive operation necessary to provide practical assistance.
Complain! Contact FEMA:
Michael D. Brown
Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Emergency Preparedness & Response
500 C St, SW
Washington DC 20172
Complaint line: 202/646-3661
Fax line: 202/646-3930
The Department of Homeland Security (which FEMA is part of) has an indirect way to email comments:
Or phone the Department of Homeland Security Comment Line: 1-202-282-8495
Pat Robertson's Katrina Cash, The Nation, Sept. 7, 2005