Churches sue U.S. Government Over Funding
An ongoing battle since the first amendment was passed has always been church vs state. The First Amendment which formalized in 1791 clearly states that Congress has no power to make laws that suit any establishment of religion or prohibit the free exercise thereof. However, it is easy to spot the phrase “separation of church and state” does not appear in the United States Constitution.
The churches argue that FEMA policy states that nonprofits that serve the general public interests qualify to apply for disaster relief funds. It is important to take note that FEMA explicitly excludes facilities primarily used for religious activities as is the case with these three churches.
Hi-Way Tabernacle, one of the three churches in the suit, states that it is currently in use as a shelter for dozens of evacuees in addition to acting as a warehouse for disaster relief supplies. The church also claims to be a distribution center for thousands of emergency meals and a base to provide medical services.
The other two churches don’t list similar activities as the Hi-Way Tabernacle, but they did list the severity of the damages their buildings have suffered due to Hurricane Harvey.
The damages suffered include roof damage and flooding after Hurricane Harvey hit the state of Texas. The three churches are asking the District Court for the Southern District of Texas in Houston to rule FEMA’s policy unconstitutional. The churches are also seeking expedited relief actions in the suit due to the nature of the damage.
While the three churches’ actions may seem futile it is important to note that the United States of America Supreme Court recently made a decision that made it easier for religious groups to access public aid.