@SenatorWicker Pleased FEMA Will Allow Disaster Aid for Houses of Worship

@SenatorWicker Pleased FEMA Will Allow Disaster Aid for Houses of Worship”

FEMA will help churches and other houses of worship get back on their feet after disasters.

The new funding rules were released in an update to the policy guide for FEMA. The new policies are retroactive to disasters declared on or after August 23, 2017.

In that 7-2 decision a year ago, the court ruled Missouri acted improperly when it denied public funds to a Lutheran church that sought assistance from a state program providing grants for playground improvements. "A fundamental principal of religious liberty is that the government doesn't build churches, synagogues or other houses of worship", Garrett said.

"Better late than never", he said in a statement. "By finally following the Constitution, FEMA is getting rid of second-class status for churches". "We will watch carefully to make sure that FEMA's new policy implemented to provide equal treatment for churches and synagogues alongside other charities".

Carl Anderson, CEO of the Knights of Columbus, was similarly pleased with the FEMA decision.

The Knights of Columbus have given $1.4 million to fix or help rebuild churches that were destroyed or badly damaged in hurricanes previous year in Texas, Florida and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The organization also raised $3.8 million for disaster relief in these areas. It's unclear what will happen going forward if the issue gains public attention, but at the moment a mix of lawmakers is supporting the measure to directly fund houses of worship, including Republican Reps.

The atheist organization, which most recently gained the national spotlight by posting anti-Christmas billboards in several states, railed against the Trump administration for what they called a misapplication of federal law and for giving federal funds to churches that aided the relief efforts and served as emergency shelters and FEMA response bases for their local communities in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. The churches filed a lawsuit against FEMA over its policy accusing the agency of religious discrimination. Two Florida synagogues damaged in Hurricane Irma similarly filed lawsuits. While we were deeply troubled by the Court's decision in that case, their ruling did specify that Trinity Lutheran was eligible to receive a public grant for its playground because it was an ostensibly secular part of the church. Another request for an emergency injunction for these churches has been pending at the Supreme Court.

Hi-Way Tabernacle, the Harvest Family Church in Cypress and the Rockport First Assembly of God argued that they should qualify for federal funds to help pay for property losses incurred during the storm.

During the launch of the lawsuit, President Donald Trump tweeted that churches should be entitled to funds for assisting victims of Hurricane Harvey. In 2005, FEMA paid for the rebuilding of parochial schools, religious community centers and religious hospitals and nursing homes, but not houses of worship.

Chairmen of the USA bishops' Committee for Religious Liberty and the Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs supported the measure in letters sent to members of the House and Senate. The principle of religious freedom, protected by the First Amendment, guarantees all Americans the right to decide for themselves what religious institutions, if any, they support with their money. So far, the foreword to FEMA's Third Edition Public Assistance Program and Policy Guide has outlined that the new policy should open up relief funding for any religious organizations hit by a federally declared disaster from August 23, 2017 that had not already been resolved by January 1, 2018, so it looks like the next step for religious organizations impacted by the storm and flooding is to just apply.

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