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Controversial FEMA Rule Frustrates Damaged Houses of Worship E-mail
Written by Don Byrd   
Saturday, 05 January 2013

I posted last month about the controversial FEMA rule denying aid to damaged churches and synagogues out of church-state separation concerns, despite other non-profit organizations receiving funds for storm damage following Hurricane Sandy. Yesterday, the New York Times updated the FEMA story, with statements from church-state experts who lay out the basic opposition of ideas at the heart of the dispute.

Barry W. Lynn, the executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said, “I think that challenges would be inevitable if you started to reconstruct religious buildings with federal or state tax dollars.”

Marc D. Stern, the general counsel of the American Jewish Committee, disagrees. In a letter to senators last week, he argued that aid “distributed under a neutral program of storm relief” could be made available constitutionally in part because “there is a strong societal interest in aid to all who have suffered damage.”

Legislation that explicitly named houses of worship as appropriate FEMA aid recipients was not included in the amendments considered before the aid bill passed.

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