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January 04, 2013

In Sandy's Wake, Faith Groups Challenge Ban on FEMA Grants

Religious organizations are seeking to reverse a bar on Federal Emergency Management Agency grants for houses of worship, hoping to secure government help in repairing churches and synagogues damaged by Superstorm Sandy, reports The New York Times.

Nonprofit groups are generally eligible for direct federal disaster aid, but houses of worship are not on the list of qualified organizations. Several major Jewish charities are leading a campaign to encourage religious groups to apply for FEMA grants, as well as seeking legislative action on the issue.

"Houses of worship should not be discriminated against and excluded from getting assistance on the same terms as other eligible nonprofits," said Nathan Diament, a policy official with the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America.

Civil-liberties groups oppose the change, saying it would violate the constitutional separation of church and state to provide taxpayer funds for rebuilding religious institutions.