Charisma Caucus

Why Churches and Religious Organizations Should Celebrate This New Law

Members of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Urban Search and Rescue team conduct a search operation at an area hit by Hurricane Maria in Yauco, Puerto Rico, Sept. 25, 2017. (Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters )

Previously we have told you how churches and places of worship were being discriminated against and were prohibited from even applying to receive grants from the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) in the wake of natural disasters.

Thankfully, FEMA announced in January of 2018 that they would put an end to these discriminating policies and that churches and places of worship would no longer be prohibiting from receiving these grants.

Now, this policy is law. Early Friday morning, President Trump signed into law a new budget that would provide protections for churches and places of worship. In the bill it stated, "No house of worship may be excluded from this definition because leadership or membership in the organization operating the house of worship is limited to persons who share a religious faith or practice." This means that FEMA cannot discriminate against religious organizations for the purposes of receiving grants.

We have long been advocating for putting an end to religious discrimination by any federal agency. Previously we sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) demanding a stop to faith-based discrimination.

It is our hope that these recent efforts are emblematic of a long-term commitment to righting the wrongs of the past. It is not enough to simply plan to include religious, pro-life, and faith-based organizations in the conversation. Rather, these terrific first steps must ultimately find root in programmatic implementation for grants and other participatory projects. The end result must be a department that no longer excludes organizations from consideration for public funds and public programs because their religious affiliation or other sincerely held beliefs. The ACLJ urges the department to build on its recent efforts to make clear that neither faith beliefs nor a pro-life position can ever be grounds to exclude well-qualified organizations from consideration for public funds and programs.

This is an enormous victory for religious and faith-based organizations. Join us as we continue to fight to ensure that no government agency is able to discriminate against these organizations.

For the original article, visit aclj.org.

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