The Wounded Warrior Project has apologized for rejecting donations from a Baptist church and said the incident was “blown out of proportion” even though the organization’s website states that religious donations are not accepted.
“It was a mistake,” a Wounded Warrior Project spokesperson told Fox News. “We reached out to the church and gave them our sincerest apologies and told them we would welcome their events.”
Liberty Baptist Church and Academy in Fort Pierce, Fla. had wanted to raise thousands of dollars for the charity. After the group had sent in their $100 fee, Wounded Warrior Project told them that they could not accept their donations because they were a religious group.
The spokesperson said the charity does not have a policy banning religious groups from hosting fundraisers. WWP said the event was rejected because the church would be ‘soliciting funds’ and they would be doing so over an entire month.
“The truth is – it was a mistake from a junior staff member,” the spokesperson said. “We register religious events on a regular basis and always have.”
But the Wounded Warrior Project website states: “WWP does not co-brand, create cause marketing campaigns or receive a percentage or a portion of proceeds from companies in which the product or message is sexual, political or religious in nature, or from alcohol or weapons companies.”
About a half hour after this story first appeared, the words “religious in nature” were removed from the website. Pictured below is a screen grab of the statement as it originally appearned.
And WWP sent an email to the church telling echoing those claims.
“We must decline the opportunity to be the beneficiary of your event due to our fundraising event criteria, which doesn’t allow community events to be religious in nature,” the email read.
Wallace Cooley, the pastor of Liberty Baptist Church, told Fox News that a WWP executive called to apologize and acknowledged they did have a policy banning religious groups.
“I asked them if they were going to change policy and he said they were going to meet this week to discuss their policy,” he said. “He said there had been some concerns about religious leaders asking for money from a congregation and concerns with what they might do with it.”
The pastor said WWP told them they would be willing to make a exception to their rule if the church was willing to renew their fundraising campaign.
“I told them I did not want to be an exception if they were not willing to receive from other faith-based institutions,” he told Fox News.
Cooley said he is disturbed that Wounded Warrior is telling the public one thing and the church another.
“Now they are talking as if we are lying or misrepresenting and I have the documentation, their emails,” he said. “I do not get the impression they are in favor of faith-based organizations.”
He also told them they would be looking for another charity to support. The small congregation had been planning to raise as much as $50,000 for the charity.
“We are not a wealthy congregation,” the pastor said. “But they are generous.”
The rejection was especially difficult for the 460 children who attend Liberty Baptist Academy.
“We are second-class citizens now because we are people of faith,” the pastor said. “We are going to find some people who will be more friendly to faith-based organizations.
As for why Wounded Warrior Project waited three days to respond to the controversy, the spokesperson said “our staff is really busy and travels all the time.”
“We try to be really truthful and thoughtful in everything we say in media,” the spokesperson said.