01.02.18

Senator Lankford Applauds FEMA For Including Houses of Worship in Disaster Assistance

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today applauded the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) decision to allow houses of worship to apply for aid relating to disasters declared after Aug. 23, 2017. 

Specifically, FEMA today revised their Public Assistance Program and Policy Guide to include that houses of worship will no longer be excluded from eligibility for FEMA aid on the basis of the religious character or primarily religious use of the facility. With this change, FEMA affirmed the Supreme Court’s 7-2 decision in Trinity Lutheran that the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment is violated by denying a church an otherwise available public benefit on account of its religious status.

“Faith-based nonprofits and houses of worship have always played a critical role in helping Americans in need, especially after a natural disaster. Just like charities, houses of worship that serve our communities and are impacted by natural disasters like Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, should not be disqualified from disaster assistance simply because they are religious in nature. I’m pleased that FEMA is taking this important step to include houses of worship into its list of eligible entities for aid.” 

In September, Senator Lankford joined Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX), John Cornyn (R-TX), and Roy Blunt (R-MO) to introduce the Federal Disaster Assistance Nonprofit Fairness Act, which would make houses of worship eligible for FEMA Public Assistance program grants.

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