As relief efforts continue across areas affected by Hurricane Harvey, three Texas churches sued the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) this week after their application for disaster relief grants had been denied.
According to Church Law & Tax sister publication Christianity Today:
“The agency’s policy excludes sanctuaries that serve as shelters after natural disasters.
“‘Churches have been told by FEMA: We will use you, but we will not help you,’ said Daniel Blomberg, an attorney for Becket, the religious liberty advocate representing the churches.
“The three churches filed suit Monday in federal district court in Texas, hoping for relief before the end of FEMA’s month-long application window for Harvey victims. . . .
“They claim that FEMA discriminates on the basis of religion by using it as a factor to keep otherwise public-serving organizations from applying for relief that certain secular counterparts remain eligible for.
“Their case brings up the precedent set by the US Supreme Court’s recent Trinity Lutheran playground ruling, which stated in June that a church could not be kept from applying for a public grant ‘solely because it is a church.’
“FEMA’s public assistance program focuses on organizations providing public services, so it excludes ‘facilities established or primarily used for political, athletic, religious, recreational, vocational, or academic training, conferences, or similar activities.’”
Read the entire Christianity Today report here.
In the wake of disasters like Hurricane Harvey, make sure your church is prepared and protected. Use resources like When Disaster Strikes, Planning for Emergency Evacuations, and Serving as a Disaster Relief Team to help safeguard against future events and also to learn how you might offer relief and assistance today.
Emily Lund is Assistant Editor for Church Law & Tax.
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