US Bishops Urge Support For Federal Disaster Assistance

Legislation Would Ensure Fair Treatment for Houses of Worship Damaged in Natural Disasters

Washington, D.C., (Zenit.org) | 709 hits

Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, and Bishop Denis J. Madden, auxiliary bishop of Baltimore and chairman of the USCCB Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, hailed the introduction of S. 1274 by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Roy Blunt and urged U.S. Senators to support passage of the Federal Disaster Assistance Nonprofit Fairness Act of 2013. S. 1274 is similar to H.R. 592, which overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives on February 13, 2013.

In a July 29 letter, Archbishop Lori and Bishop Madden asked Senators to support the legislation, which would ensure the fair and equal treatment for houses of worship damaged in natural disasters by enabling them to seek aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The letter noted that S. 1274 "is consistent with Supreme Court jurisprudence, which recognizes the right of religious institutions to receive public financial aid in the context of a broad program administered on the basis of religion-neutral criteria."Archbishop Lori and Bishop Madden explained that houses of worship often play an "irreplaceable role in the recovery of a community" after a natural disaster.

"Discrimination that treats houses of worship as ineligible for federal assistance in the wake of a natural disaster, beyond being a legal violation, hurts the very communities most affected by the indiscriminate force of nature," said Archbishop Lori and Bishop Madden.

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The full letter is available online: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/upload/senate-letter-sandy-fema-support-lori-madden-2013-07.pdf