Religious fundamentalists from all three major faiths argue that Hurricane Katrina's destruction on the southern coast of the United States was part of God's punishment on America. While reasons for God's retribution sometimes vary, the rhetoric of fundamentalist Christian, Jewish, and Muslims leaders is quite similar.
Rick Scarborough, president of Vision America, argued that the hurricane was God's punishment for homosexuality, bestiality, pornography, the removal of Ten Commandments monuments and the U.S.'s support for Israel's withdrawal of Gaza. Scarborough unsuccessfully ran as the fundamentalist candidate for the president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas in 1996.
In the Sept. 2 Rick Scarborough Report he wrote: "After Sept. 11, 2001, 'God bless America' was on everyone's lips. But what, exactly, are we asking God to bless--a nation moving a breakneck speed toward homosexual marriage, a nation awash in pornography, a nation in which our children are indoctrinated in perversion in the public schools, a nation in which most public displays of The Ten Commandments are considered offensive to the Constitution, a nation in which the elite does all in its considerable power to efface our biblical heritage?"
He then added: "We are sowing the wind. Surely, we shall reap the whirlwind."
Scarborough also linked the Gaza withdrawal to Hurricane Katrina. "One other factor which must be considered: Days before Katrina nearly wiped New Orleans off the map, 9,000 Jewish residents of Gaza were driven from their homes with the full support of the United States government," he wrote. "Could this be a playing out of prophecy ('I will bless that nation that blesses you, and curse the nation that curses you')?"
Other Christian leaders have declared Hurricane Katrina to be God's punishment on America because of homosexuality.
Michael Marcavage, who leads the anti-homosexual group Repent America, argued, "This act of God destroyed a wicked city."
He pointed out that the hurricane struck just before Southern Decadence, the annual gay rights parade in New Orleans. Marcavage also linked the destruction with Mardi Gras and the "Girls Gone Wild" videos.
"We must not forget that the citizens of New Orleans tolerated and welcomed the wickedness in their city for so long," he added.
The group led by anti-homosexual preacher Fred Phelps of Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., made similar claims. Phelps's group, which has also started picketing the funerals of American soldiers killed in Iraq, posted comments on their GodHatesFags.com Web site.
"New Orleans, symbol of America, seen for what it is: a putrid, toxic, stinking cesspool of fag fecal matter," they argued. "It is NOT a sin to rejoice when God executes his wrath and vengeance upon America."
Bill Shanks, pastor of New Covenant Fellowship of New Orleans, also thanks God for Hurricane Katrina. "New Orleans now is abortion free," he explains. "New Orleans now is Mardi Gras free. New Orleans now is free of Southern Decadence and the sodomites, the witchcraft workers, false religion—it's free of all of those things now.
"God simply, I believe, in his mercy purged all of that stuff out of there—and now we're going to start over again."
Jewish and Muslims fundamentalists leaders have also argued that Hurricane Katrina was God's punishment on America. Some rabbis view the devastation as retribution for U.S. support of the withdrawal of Gaza.
For many Muslim religious leaders, the hurricane is punishment for America's involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq, where they support "the Zionist cause." The al Qaeda group in Iraq declared that the hurricane destruction demonstrates the "wrath of God."
Whether it be for homosexuality or other social issues, the withdrawal of Gaza, or the conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, fundamentalist Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders view Hurricane Katrina as divine punishment on America.
In many regards, their rhetoric has more in common with each other than with others within their same faith.
Brian Kaylor is communications specialist for the Baptist General Convention of Missouri.