There was an article on NPR the other day about churches that were destroyed by Hurricane Sandy.
They are trying to rebuild but have to rely entirely on private donations because the government (FEMA) won’t pay religious organizations.
NPR talked to supporters of both sides of the issue.
Advocates for the separation of church and state supported the restriction for obvious reasons.
Some Religious leaders supported the ban because they say taking money from FEMA would make them beholden to the government.
And, of course, the ministers and rabbis who just want their places of worship back said they would just appreciate the financial assistance.
I’ve always been a proponent of the church / state separation, probably because I’m not religious and get offended when people try to force their own belief system onto me.
But, perhaps surprisingly, I think FEMA should fund the rebuilding of churches in disaster areas.
Other non-profit organizations are eligible for support. And so are for-profit businesses. Just because I don’t necessarily believe what they believe doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be there, that they aren’t an important part of the community.
Does FEMA refuse to help butcher shops because it might offend vegetarians? Or bars because some people don’t drink?
There are some loopholes, I guess. If the church’s provide nondenominational services like a soup kitchen or food shelf they might be eligible for some funding.
But why make them jump through hoops.
It seems to me that the point of the FEMA grants is to bring a neighborhood back to life. Not just some of the neighborhood, all of it.
As the rabbi says in the report, they aren’t asking the government to buy prayer books. Just help restore the damaged buildings.
Even as an agnostic, I don’t mind a few of my taxes dollars helping to do that.