The U.S. Supreme Court recently handed down a unanimous decision upholding the right of religious organizations to decide who will be their leaders and teachers. The Hosann-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church vs Equal Employment Opportunity Commission upheld the ministerial exception of the First Amendment’s Freedom of Religion clauses saying government must respect religious exercise while not establishing religion. In a way it challenged government to preserve the freedom of religious organizations and not overturn decisions being made by a religious entity on determining their own leadership, beliefs, and teachers.
How does this affect the disaster response arena? The ruling affirms religious organizations decision-making authority affecting many Christian disaster and emergency responder organizations to hire, fire and implement their core beliefs without retribution. The fact is, the motivation for 89% of the volunteer first responders in any given disaster are faith-based, mostly Christian. If the Christian churches has the very heart of Jesus Christ removed from their response the very foundation for “why they respond” would be stripped away. No volunteers with a heart to respond like Christ, equals no volunteers!!
While protocols on sharing one’s faith should be sensitively adhered to in responding to disasters, nevertheless, Christians should take heart that responding to people in crisis is still a freedom of speech. We should not take that for granted, rather, exercise that freedom and right fully.