Congress Makes Hurricane-ravaged Communities Whole By Approving FEMA Funds for Houses of Worship

Last year, hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria inflicted record-breaking devastation on America, taking more than 200 lives and causing more than $200 billion in damages.

Religious communities—churches, temples, synagogues, and other houses of worship—were among the first responders helping their neighbors recover from the unprecedented storms. Before federal emergency relief could respond, the religious community was there.

Only after the water had receded and most were able to return safely to their homes did these religious organizations begin to look to their own needs. What they found was overwhelming.

Hundreds, possibly thousands, of churches, temples, synagogues, and other religious organizations were devastated. They had to gut their sanctuaries, drain community centers, and replace tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of HVAC equipment ruined in the muck and debris of the floods. How could they possibly rebuild while continuing their critical mission of mercy to their community?

Mother Nature’s fury did not discriminate, but FEMA did.

Though these organizations would otherwise qualify for FEMA’s Disaster Relief Funds, they were categorically barred from receiving emergency relief based solely on their religious status. What is more, they weren’t even allowed to apply.

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My firm, First Liberty Institute, wrote to the Trump Administration on behalf of our clients requesting the unconstitutional religious ban be rescinded, as did Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Governor Greg Abbott. The White…