A Houston federal judge has given FEMA three weeks to decide if its going to change its policy of denying disaster relief to religious institutions, rejecting FEMA’s attempt to delay a challenge by three Texas churches.
Since the devastation by Hurricane Harvey in late August, FEMA has denied houses of worship access to federal disaster aid grants due to their religious status while allowing other nonprofits and businesses to apply, but Judge Keith Ellison has given the agency until Dec. 1 to change that policy.
If FEMA fails to change the policy within the deadline, the judge said he would issue a ruling.
“Christmas may come early for hard-hit houses of worship in Texas — the court has set the clock ticking on FEMA’s irrational religious discrimination policy,” Daniel Blomberg, counsel at Becket, the nonprofit religious liberty law firm that represents the churches, said in a statement. “It can’t come soon enough.”
Harvest Family Church, Hi-Way Tabernacle and Rockport First Assembly of God, which were among the first to respond in Harvey’s aftermath and continue to provide aid to their communities, sued FEMA in September.
Last month, a Roman Catholic and a Jewish group submitted friend-of-the-court briefs siding with the three evangelical churches.
SOURCE: Anugrah Kumar