After Lawsuits, FEMA Stops Discriminating Against Religious Relief Organizations

Jan 13, 2018 by

By Nicole Russell, The Federalist:

Ever since hurricane Harvey pummeled Texas months ago, several religious organizations have been trying to get Federal Emergency Management Agency-sanctioned disaster relief, to no avail. FEMA chose to exclude all religious nonprofits from access to its funds based entirely on their religious affiliation. Until now.

After repeated pressure in the form of several lawsuits, FEMA announced a new policy recently that will curb discrimination against religious organizations. FEMA is now accepting disaster aid applications through February 4 from houses of worship damaged by Hurricane Harvey. This decision no doubt comes in response to two lawsuits brought by three Texas churches and two Florida synagogues seeking immediate and equal access to disaster aid.

FEMA’s Public Assistance Grant program helps organizations make basic structural repairs and begin rebuilding after a natural disaster like hurricane Harvey. Until this point, it was available to most nonprofit organizations, such as zoos, museums, and charities—just not religious institutions. That is not only discriminatory, but disgustingly ironic.

The very places that often are the first to offer emergency housing to evacuees, distribute hot meals, and provide some basic medical care are houses of worship and their affiliated mercy organizations. Yet FEMA exclusively prohibited such organizations from federal grants just because of their religious affiliation.

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