Judge rules for churches in fight over FEMA hurricane benefits
‚ÄúThe court has set the clock ticking on FEMA‚Äôs irrational religious discrimination policy,‚ÄĚ said Daniel Blomberg, a lawyer for Becket, a nonprofit religious liberty law firm representing three churches.
‚ÄúIt can‚Äôt come soon enough.‚ÄĚ
U.S. District Judge Keith P. Ellison ruled against FEMA‚Äôs request to delay the case until the end of the month.
The churches, Harvest Family Church, Hi-Way Tabernacle and Rockport First Assembly of God, all were impacted by Hurricane Harvey in August. Their facilities were flooded, even while they were providing benefits to community members, but the government said they would not be allowed to participate in standard recovery aid programs....
‚ÄúThe churches are not seeking special treatment; they are seeking a fair shake. And they need to know now whether they have any hope of counting on FEMA or whether they will continue to be excluded entirely from these FEMA programs,‚ÄĚ the complaint said.
The churches are in Cypress, Cleveland and Rockport, Texas, all in the path of Harvey. Their buildings all were damaged in the flood, with roofs, walls and vehicles gone.
WND also reported that separately, three other churches wrote to the White House asking the president to intervene in the situation.
The nonprofit legal group First Liberty said it had written directly to the White House on behalf of its clients, Trinity Church, Church on the Rock Katy and Grace Community Church.
‚Äė‚ÄĚThis is a discriminatory policy started in the past and continued through the Obama administration,‚ÄĚ said Chelsey Youman, counsel for First Liberty. ‚ÄúThe same religious institutions that are tirelessly serving their communities in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma are being told by the federal government they don‚Äôt deserve the nation‚Äôs help.‚ÄĚ
The letter came after President Trump voiced support for the churches, tweeting that ‚ÄúChurches in Texas should be entitled to reimbursement from FEMA Relief Funds .."