Hurricane Harvey-flooded churches in Texas are suing the Federal Emergency Management Agency to gain access to disaster relief grants, a religious liberty lawfirm announced.
In the suit, three small Texas churches damaged by Harvey are challenging a FEMA policy banning them from applying to its relief program because they are religious.
The lawsuit argues nonprofits like museums and zoos qualify for FEMA's relief programs to help make basic structural repairs and begin rebuilding, but churches, synagogues, and other houses of worship are denied access to the grants.
The plaintiffs charges the policy is unconstitutional.
The lawfirm Becket filed the suit in Houston federal court against FEMA on behalf of Harvest Family Church, Hi-Way Tabernacle, and Rockport First Assembly of God.
"After the costliest and most devastating natural disaster in U.S. history, the government should come to the aid of all, not leave important parts of the community underwater," Becket lawyer Diana Verm said in a statement.
"Hurricane Harvey didn't cherry-pick its victims; FEMA shouldn't cherry-pick who it helps."
According to Becket, FEMA has repeatedly denied disaster assistance funds to houses of worship in the wake of disasters like Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy, including a Jewish Chabad, a homeless shelter church ministry, and a Unitarian Universalist church.
"Houses of worship are playing a vital role in helping Texans recover from this horrible storm," Verm's statement said. "It’s time for FEMA to start helping the helpers, not continue a policy of irrational discrimination against churches."
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