Alabama Baptists Drop Request For Fema Aid After Controversy Erupts

Three Baptist churches in Alabama that housed hurricane evacuees have withdrawn their requests for federal reimbursements over a disagreement about whether the proper bureaucratic procedures were followed after the storm.

Officials at the First Baptist Church of Robertsdale, the Lagoon Baptist Church in Gulf Shores and the First Eastern Shore Missionary Baptist Association of Daphne pulled the requests after local government officials disputed claims that the church bodies had ever been officially asked to take on the task of housing those fleeing Hurricane Katrina, reported The Alabama Baptist.

A form provided by the Alabama Emergency Management Agency asked Baldwin County Commissioners to certify that they had “tasked” the churches with opening shelters. The commissioners balked, saying it did not happen that way.

Commissioners said that when storm evacuees began showing up, local churches simply began opening shelters and providing space and food without being asked. The churches turned to their members for support or used existing budget funds to pay for the services.

The situation was complicated by a Jan. 23 article in the Mobile Register questioning the validity of reimbursing the churches and implying that some of the reimbursement requests were frivolous. The article quoted one pastor, Billy Lambert of Summerdale Church of Christ, whose church said it would not seek federal reimbursement.

“If we’re covered by donations, first of all, I think it would be unethical,” Lambert said. “I believe that would be double dipping, wouldn’t it?”