By Daniel Tasripin

Evaluating the destruction in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, the Christian conservative base of the Republican Party found a silver lining.

“New Orleans now is abortion-free,” celebrated the Reverend Bill Shanks of the Christian conservative group The American Family Association. Having evacuated New Orleans for the safety of Jackson, Mississippi, he continually praised the devastation caused by Katrina.

“New Orleans is now Mardi Gras-free, New Orleans now is free of Southern Decadence and the sodomites, the witchcraft workers, false religion. … [N]ow we're going to start over again."

Shanks is one of many evangelical Christian leaders, often characterized by their belief in a vengeful, jealous God, who are making waves by discerning divine will in this natural disaster. But such provocative remarks have not prevented charities tied to the Christian conservative movement from receiving the federal government’s stamp of approval as major players in the relief effort.

An early controversy arose when the group Operation Blessing, Pat Robertson’s proselytizing agency, was given a prominent place on a list of organizations to which the Federal Emergency Management Agency was sending people who wanted to donate Katrina-related aid. In light of the FEMA website’s omission of leading secular and non-sectarian aid groups from the list, commentators questioned whether the Bush administration was slanting donations to so-called “faith-based” charity groups.

Questioned by the press about the inclusion of Operation Blessing and absence of secular and non-sectarian groups, the administration directed all inquiries to FEMA. The agency has given no comment on the matter.