Three churches impacted by Hurricane Harvey—and responding to their communities’ needs—have filed a complaint against the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for blanket discrimination.
As the NCLL has reported on the Trinity Lutheran Church decision, the Supreme Court confirmed that the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment protects a church from being “indirectly coerced or penalized . . . solely because it is a church.”
Harvest Family Church, Hi-Way Tabernacle, and Rockport First Assembly of God base their case on Trinity in directly challenging the policy of FEMA “that categorically excludes houses of worship from equal access to disaster-relief grants because of their religious status.”
Their lawsuit notes that “government may not discriminate against a church . . . simply because of its status as a place of religious teaching and worship.”
It goes on to explain, “But for their religious usage, all three of the churches’ buildings would be eligible for FEMA disaster relief grants. All three churches own their damaged buildings and are nonprofits that have received I.R.C. § 501(c)(3) recognition from the IRS. All three are in counties—Harris, Liberty, and Aransas—that have been declared by the president to be a disaster area eligible for federal funds. And all three open their buildings to the general public and provide services that, but for their religious character and purpose, are considered eligible community services by FEMA.”
If successful, the decision would allow FEMA to provide funds for “the repair, restoration, reconstruction, or replacement of the facility and for associated expenses” for thousands of churches and ministries in the path of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
Please pray for these three bold churches, along with every church, family, and individual impacted by natural disaster. And please pray for our religious freedom. NCLL continues fighting for your inalienable rights to life and liberty in the courtroom, in legislatures, and in the culture.
With your support, the NCLL will help restore constitutional sanity to our nation and protect our churches from coast to coast.