USCCB Chairmen Urge Congress to Support the Federal Disaster Assistance Nonprofit Fairness Act of 2017, H.R. 2405 / S. 1823

September 28, 2017 By Public Affairs Office

Legislationwould eNsure fair treatment for houses of worship damaged in natural disasters 

Bill passedU.S. House with overwhelming bipartisan support in2013 

FEMAshouldn't discriminate 

WASHINGTON—Archbishop William E.Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. Conference of CatholicBishops' (USCCB) Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, and BishopMitchell T. Rozanski, bishop of Springfield, Massachusetts andchairman of the USCCB Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs,urged Members of Congress to support passage of the Federal DisasterAssistance Nonprofit Fairness Act of 2017 (H.R. 2405 / S. 1823). Analmost identical bill passed the House in 2013 with overwhelming bipartisansupport. 

In September 27 letters to theHouse and Senate, in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, andMaria, Archbishop Lori and Bishop Rozanski asked Representativesand Senators to support the legislation, which would ensure the fair andequal treatment for houses of worship damaged in natural disasters by enablingthem to seek aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).  

The letters noted that the"legislation is consistent with Supreme Court jurisprudence, which recognizesthe right of religious institutions to receive public financial aid in thecontext of a broad program administered on the basis of religion-neutralcriteria." The letters note the 2017 Trinity Lutheran Church casedecided by the U.S. Supreme Court, which provides a firm legal foundationfor such assistance. 

Archbishop Lori andBishop Rozanski explained that "houses of worship often play anirreplaceable role in the recovery of a community" after a naturaldisaster.  

"Discrimination that treats housesof worship as ineligible for federal assistance in the wake of a naturaldisaster, beyond being a legal violation, hurts the very communities mostaffected by the indiscriminate force of nature," said Archbishop Loriand Bishop Rozanski. 

Links to each of the letters can be found here: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/upload/Letter-of-Support-to-House-for-Federal-Disaster-Assistance-Nonprofit-Fairness-Act-of-2017.pdf

www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/upload/Letter-of-Support-to-Senate-for-Federal-Disaster-Assistance-Nonprofit-Fairness-Act-of-2017.pdf

A backgrounder is availableat:  http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/upload/Federal-Disaster-Assistance-Nonprofit-Fairness-Act-2017-Fact-Sheet.pdf  

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Keywords: Archbishop William Lori,Bishop Mitchell Rozanski, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB,Federal Disaster Assistance Nonprofit Fairness Act of 2017, Federal EmergencyManagement Agency, FEMA, religious liberty, religious freedom, houses ofworship, disaster relief.

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Judy Keane
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