Matthew 10:42 says, “If anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.” But Hurricane Wilma victims at one relief station in Florida reportedly had to drive three miles to get drinking water, because Southern Baptist volunteers serving hot meals refused to give away cans of water donated by Anheuser-Busch.
NBC-2 News in Fort Myers, Fla., reported that water sat all day at a feeding station Clewiston, Fla., because of the Southern Baptists’ religious objections to alcohol. The water was expected to be handed out by Red Cross volunteers in other locations.
The beer company Anheuser-Busch announced Oct. 20 it was shipping 15,050 cases of canned drinking water, or 361,200 cans, to independent wholesalers in eight Florida cities to be distributed as soon as emergency relief agencies call for it.
That is in addition to 5.7 million cans of drinking water Anheuser-Busch donated to relief efforts of Hurricane Katrina, along with $3 million in cash and donated goods like clothes and other items valued at $1 million.
“No matter when and where disaster strikes, Anheuser-Busch and its wholesalers are always among the first on the scene, helping our neighbors get back on their feet,” said Mike Harding, vice president of operations for Anheuser-Busch. “Safe drinking water is one of the top priorities for hurricane victims and relief-agency workers following many hurricanes.”
The Red Cross has worked with the Southern Baptist Convention since 1987, providing and distributing food in kitchens set up and staffed by Southern Baptist volunteers. The North American Mission Board reported that 15 kitchen units and about 500 volunteers were working in south Florida following Hurricane Wilma, in addition to 7,000 volunteers still working along the Gulf Coast.
Some questioned the arrangement after African-Americans complained they were cut out of relief efforts following Hurricane Katrina. Others say the Red Cross should not work exclusively with a group that proselytizes.
Helping communities cope with natural disasters has been an Anheuser-Busch tradition since 1906 when Adolphus Busch made a donation to victims of the San Francisco earthquake. Today, in addition to providing monetary support, Anheuser-Busch breweries package fresh drinking water and donate it to emergency relief organizations for distribution to those in need.
America’s leading brewer, St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch sells 50 percent of the nation’s beer. It is one of more than 130 U.S. companies listed by CNN Money donating millions to hurricane relief efforts in the Gulf Coast and matching charitable contributions made by their employees. They range alphabetically from Abbot, a drug company, which pledged $4 million in cash and products, to Xerox, which donated $2 million in cash, services and supplies.
Wal-Mart stores gave $17 million and established mini-stores in hurricane-stricken areas, handing out items such as clothing, diapers, baby wipes, food and formula free of charge.
General Electric donated $6 million to the Red Cross and matched employee donations up to $1 million. GE also pledged $10 million in medical devices, power generators and water-purification systems.
In-kind contributors included Comcast, which committed to donating $10 million worth of advertising time for public service announcements; Continental Airlines, which donated 1,000 airline tickets to help relocate victims, and a Papa Johns franchise in Houston that offered 10,000 pizzas to people evacuated from New Orleans to the Astrodome.
That water donated by Anheuser-Busch comes in white cans labeled in blue “Drinking Water, Not for Sale.” They carry the Anheuser-Busch eagle logo and a note they are donated by the brewer, but do not resemble the familiar Budweiser or Bud Light labels used to advertise beer on television and in sporting venues.
Southern Baptists have traditionally opposed the use of alcohol. A recent study, however, found that just more than half of Baptist ministers surveyed in North Carolina viewed the Bible as teaching that all use of alcohol is wrong and one in three said moderate use of alcohol is OK, but not becoming drunk.
GuideStone Financial Resources, which provides retirement, insurance and investment services for Baptist ministers, doesn’t invest in what it calls “sin stocks,” companies that are publicly recognized as being involved with alcohol, gambling, pornography and abortion.
It does, however, maintain holdings in companies such as Carnival Cruise Lines, which advertises cruises featuring gambling casinos and alcohol sales.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.