A legal group that fights for religious freedom is asking the federal government to abide by the Constitution in the wake of recent extensive hurricane damage.
Hurricane Harvey is now history – but the devastation that resulted from the storm is not, especially in Texas and Louisiana. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is on hand and doing a good job helping victims, but attorney Daniel Blomberg of Becket tells OneNewsNow the federal agency is crossing off the list some victims that it shouldn't.
"While other types of private non-profit organizations are allowed to apply for disaster relief grants from FEMA to help deal with the devastation they've suffered, churches are categorically barred simply because they are religious," he shares. "That's wrong and it's unconstitutional – particularly under the Supreme Court's decision this summer in the Trinity Lutheran case."
In that decision, the high court sided with Trinity Lutheran Church (Columbia, MO), which had been banned by the state from a grant program because it is a religious organization. Blomberg says the court got it right. He points out that if a church is on fire, the fire department cannot refuse to respond because the church is religious.
"And here we're dealing with churches that have been destroyed," he continues. "Unfortunately, Hurricane Harvey didn't discriminate in who it devastated – and it's the very least that FEMA can do to end this policy of discrimination against religious groups, a policy that's been around for several years now."
Becket has filed suit on behalf of several churches. One of its clients, Hi-Way Tabernacle, is now being used by FEMA to house evacuees and provide food, medical care, and even haircuts – but remains ineligible for federal relief because it primarily uses the building for religious purposes.