Apparently, that whole First Amendment, Freedom of Religion thing is kind of passé for some people at the Red Cross down in Lafayette, Louisiana. I mean, how else could you explain their decision to condemn a police officer for having the audacity to pray with flood victims in need of help?
This past week police officer Clay Higgins stopped by the local Red Cross shelter after work to see how he could be of service to the hurting people of his community. Higgins was still in uniform and carrying a Bible as he spoke and prayed with local residents. After a few minutes on scene he was approached by a Red Cross volunteer who told him that the Red Cross had taken issue with what he was doing and wanted him to leave.
“He said the Red Cross had an issue with me being there. So I asked him what the problem was. He looked down at my Bible and he gestured and said, ‘They have a problem with that.’”
Higgins then asked to see a supervisor, and that supervisor told him that he needed to leave their facility. “I was told that the Red Cross does not allow spiritual counseling in their shelters. The supervisor told me the Red Cross is not a religious-based organization and they don’t allow religious interaction with the residents.”
While Officer Higgins was being chastised by the Red Cross supervisor someone approached and asked him to pray with them. Mr. Higgins was happy to oblige but was forced to do so outside.
“I was not proselytizing. I was just there to thank volunteers and offer prayers and encouragement… Christian compassion was not welcomed there in the manner I had provided,” Higgins told Fox News’ Todd Starnes.
The Red Cross tried to diffuse the controversy by telling the Baton Rouge Advocate that the policy is simply meant to respect people of all faiths and that Officer Higgins would have been allowed to continue doing what he was doing had he simply asked to do so. However, that has not been the experience of other Christians dealing with the Red Cross in Louisiana.
In his report on this story, Starnes also relates what a local Pastor told him about how the Red Cross deals with Christians:
A pastor in the town of Albany told me that four families left a Red Cross shelter after they were told they could not pray or read their Bibles at their cots.
“They got upset and literally packed up their stuff and came right here,” said the pastor, who asked not to be identified. “A Red Cross worker told them they could not pray or read their Bible in public.”
The pastor said he drove to the shelter in question and he was immediately met with individuals who related similar stories.
“I hadn’t even made it in the door,” the pastor said. “They said the Red Cross workers told them they could not pray or read Bibles. I told them to go to their cot and pray and read. I told them they’re on church property and they could read a Bible on church property.”
For their part, the Red Cross denies the Pastor’s story, going so far as to say that it “is simply not true.” The Red Cross says that anyone staying in one of their shelters is free to pray and gather among themselves as they see fit… but then they add this very big caveat, “However, we recognize and are sensitive to the fact that hundreds of people from different backgrounds are often sharing a large space with limited privacy.”
The Red Cross also says that they provide “spiritual care” through their Spiritual Care program, where trained Red Cross workers can provide comfort to people across many differing faiths. I’m not sure how Red Cross thinks that a person of the Christian faith will feel being comforted (in their own religion) by someone who may not actually believe the method of comfort being used. It’s downright condescending to think that the faith-based comfort is only about the words being said and not about the connection that might be made through belief.
Anyway, when Starnes asked if non-Red Cross trained outsiders could provide spiritual care, the Red Cross refrained from responding. However, Officer Higgins was happy to answer…
“If I wanted to pray with the folks in the shelter, the Red Cross told me I would have to be approved in advance, I would have to fill out the documents and they would set me up at a table. I would not be allowed to leave the table. If people wanted to come to me, they could. But I could not go to them.”
We should be (and are) thankful for the good work that the Red Cross does helping people when things are at their worst. They should be praised for reaching out to the poor, the hurting, and those who have lost everything. However, I’d be remiss not to encourage them to shift their policies and allow people of faith to practice as they see fit in their facilities – so long as they aren’t encumbering or endangering those around them. These are the hardest times that many of these people will face and their need for spiritual comfort may never be greater… it’s a bad time for the people who are supposed to be helping them to have a fit of politically correct fascism.