Faithandthelaw's Blog

The law as it relates to Christians and their free exercise of religion

FEMA Official Apologizes Over Faith-Based Shirts Request

Posted by faithandthelaw on May 22, 2010

A top official of the Federal Emergency Management Agency has apologized to members of a Southern Baptist church and The Salvation Army for a recent incident involving their volunteers and a FEMA cameraman who interviewed them.

 “The photographer in question was absolutely wrong,” reported FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate in a released statement.

And their actions “in no way reflect FEMA’s policies or priorities,” he added.

According to reports, a cameraman who was videotaping the post-tornado cleanup in the small town of Ebeneezer, Miss., had asked some of the volunteers to change out of their shirts before being part of an on-camera interview.

The volunteers, members of Crossgates Baptist Church in nearby Brandon, said the cameraman made the request because he didn’t want anything faith-based. They were wearing shirts with the Salvation Army logo.

“It kind of hurt my feelings,” volunteer Pamela Wedgeworth told The Associated Press after the incident. “I think I made the comment, ‘I think that’s the reason we’re all here, is by faith.'”

Following the incident, Fugate apologized to Crossgates Church and to The Salvation Army, and said in his statement that the agency is “proud of the work that is done by our volunteer and faith-based partners.”

“[A]nd we are proud to work side by side with them in disaster recovery efforts across the country,” he added.

In response, The Salvation Army issued its own official statement, calling the incident “unfortunate and regrettable.”

But the evangelical group was quick to defend the government agency, noting that the issue “was taken seriously and immediately addressed” when it came to the attention of FEMA leadership.

“FEMA officials have apologized to The Salvation Army, and The Salvation Army feels that FEMA is doing everything it can to rectify this situation,” The Salvation Army reported. “We know that the attitude of this one individual is not representative of FEMA as a whole, and we do not want the poor judgment of one individual to mar the otherwise great relationship The Salvation Army has with FEMA.

“Our attention is focused on continuing to help disaster survivors and we look forward to putting this incident behind us,” they concluded.

Presently, The Salvation Army is one of several agencies that work in partnership with FEMA as part of the nation’s emergency management system.

Notably, The Salvation Army and Southern Baptist Disaster Relief also happen to run two of the three largest disaster relief operations in the country.

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