News Brief: FEMA reverses itself regarding aid to churches in disaster areas

January/February 2018

After a policy change by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), churches are no longer excluded from disaster aid.

Three Texas churches had filed a lawsuit against FEMA for being denied disaster aid in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Two Florida synagogues damaged by Hurricane Irma also filed a lawsuit. The lawsuits claimed a violation of the First Amendment in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Trinity Lutheran decision in which the Court ruled it was unconstitutional to exclude a church from a state grant program for playground resurfacing.

In light of the Court’s decision last June and the lawsuits, FEMA announced the voluntary change to its policy before the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on the case. This reversal is welcomed with respect to disaster aid, but, more importantly, it’s another step in the battle with antireligious sentiments that have been on the rise in America.

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