- Oct 30, 2020
Houses of worship damaged by recent hurricanes will now be able to seek federal funding to repair or rebuild their institutions.
Texas churches damaged by Hurricane Harvey are seeking funding to rebuild their houses of worship, but are currently being blocked due to a provision that prevents houses of worship from receiving federal funding.
The Little Sisters of the Poor have been in the spotlight for the past several years because of their moral objection to the Department of Health and Human Services requirement that most religious employers cover contraceptives, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs in their employee health plan.
A housing benefit that saves clergy $800 million a year in taxes has been deemed unconstitutional by a federal judge. Under the law, housing allowances paid as part of clergy salary can be subtracted from their taxable income. Religious freedom advocates fear the ruling could force many churches in poor areas to close.
The Trump administration announced an interim rule on Friday that would provide greater religious exemptions to the federal contraceptive mandate. While groups affected by the mandate will still have to seek formal relief in court, advocates for religious freedom are hailing today’s announcement as a significant victory.
FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is being sued by three churches damaged by Hurricane Harvey that are being denied relief funding because of their status as religious institutions. Since the 1990s, FEMA has banned houses of worship from receiving federal aid — a policy that the religious liberty law firm Becket is now challenging.