Captain Clay Higgins is a reserve city marshal in Lafayette, Louisiana. In a state which has recently been ravaged by historic flooding in its southernmost areas, Higgins said he believes praying is a truly warranted response.
In a video he posted to Facebook which has since gone viral, Higgins called the floods "biblical" in nature and said they needed a "biblical" response.
Higgins also praised Louisiana's -- and America's -- sense of community and capacity to come together in times of great crisis. He said that "God sent me a reminder -- about some of the larger challenges we face," according to the Independent Journal Review.
But he then lamented a policy rule implemented by the Red Cross, which reportedly made the captain leave after he began to pray with some of the displaced residents:
Our First Amendment rights include the freedom of religion and the free practice thereof. But moreover, man, bigger than our own First Amendment, what’s wrong with offering love and prayer to people that are in a shelter?
Red Cross spokesperson Nancy Malone said that while the organization has a policy in place which aims to "be respectful of all faiths," things would have been different for Higgins if he had approached a manager about the issue.
The organization itself even has a staff of Spiritual Prayer Team members who provide help after natural disasters:
All spiritual care responders are trained to provide appropriate and respectful disaster spiritual care in line with Red Cross fundamental principles of impartiality and neutrality. It’s best to let the survivors follow their own beliefs. Some welcome prayer while others don’t.
The organization is estimating that relief efforts in Louisiana will cost around $30 million.