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Austin Cline

Religious Group Didn't Distribute Water from Beer Company

By October 30, 2005

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After a major disaster, getting clean water is one of the most critical tasks for disaster relief. Often, water is donated by companies with large canning or bottling facilities - and this includes beer companies. In Florida, a Southern Baptist Convention group refused to distribute clean water to hurricane victims because it came from Anheuser-Busch.

NBC 2 reports on why desperate people went without because of religious objections to a beer company:

Residents lined up for miles to receive food and water at the distribution point. But the water was left on the sidelines by the Alabama-based group. “The pastor didn’t want to hand out the Budweiser cans to people and that’s his prerogative and I back him 100-percent,” said SBC volunteer John Cook.

Yeah, how cares about whether desperate people go thirsty?

The SBC felt it was inappropriate to give the donation out, and they weren’t happy when NBC2 wanted to know why. “Why do you want to make that the issue? That’s not the issue. The issue is that we’re here trying to help people,” Cook said.

Isn’t it odd that they got upset when their actions came to public attention? It’s almost as if they were embarrassed. At any rate, if the issue is that they are “trying to help people,” they must not mean “help people with the basic necessities of life, like water” because they don’t consider water for fellow human beings to be as important as their personal religious objections to beer. They could have declined to hand out water from the comfort of their living rooms.

This is similar to pharmacists refusing to dispense contraception because of personal religious objections and is ultimately based upon the same ideology: the suffering and the lives of others is less important than one’s own religious doctrines. This situation is even worse, though, because people won’t get ill without contraceptives; they may get ill without water.

Not that that matters too much, right?

The vice-president of operations for Anheuser-Busch, Mike Harding, released a statement on the donation Friday reading: “As we have seen numerous times in recent years, safe drinking water is a critical need following natural disasters such as Hurricane Wilma. At the request of various relief agencies, Anheuser-Busch and its wholesalers have donated more than 9 million cans of drinking water since Hurricane Katrina hit in August, and when called on, we’ll continue to provide water to all victims of Wilma as long as it’s needed.”

I’d place the ethics of Anheuser-Busch above those of the SBC “volunteers” who only volunteered on the condition that they not do anything that they might find objectionable — regardless of whether it helps people. Fortunately, SBC volunteers were eventually seen distributing the nasty cans of water from that nasty Anheuser-Busch, but how many people went without clean water before they started?

For some reason, I don’t remember any passages where Jesus explains that helping the poor and hungry shouldn’t be done when aided by “immoral” organizations. Maybe that verse only appears on the Southern Baptist version of the Bible.


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