Published On: Sun, Jan 7th, 2018

American Atheists object to churches receiving federal funds for disaster relief, ‘It is shameful’

American Atheists have gone public with their outrage over FEMA’s recent policy change making churches eligible for federal relief funds in the wake of natural disasters.

The organization argued that such funds should go instead toward individuals and communities, seemingly ignoring the impact from congregations and groups like Convoy of Hope.

“It is shameful that the Trump Administration would misapply federal law in order to justify giving disaster relief funding to religious organizations, rather than to people and communities,” Alison Gill, legal and policy director of American Atheists, said according to the organization’s statement.

“This is a jaw-dropping abrogation of the government’s obligation to protect taxpayers from being forced to directly fund religious activities with their tax dollars. This illegal change in policy would, for the purpose of disaster relief, deem religious worship an essential government-type service.”

The Daily Caller noted that “Christian non-profit organizations proved indispensable, however, in relief efforts to local governments and to FEMA in the wakes of hurricanes Irma and Harvey and outdid FEMA in providing the vast majority of aid to their surrounding communities. Church volunteers and religious non-profit organizations, who served at no cost to their local governments, translated into billions of dollars worth of free aid to their states, since the volunteers count toward the states’ required matching of FEMA’s funds. Those same religious organizations, such as Convoy of Hope, and houses of worship, also set up response stations and distribute aid at FEMA’s request.”

“FEMA can not do what it does so well without the cooperation of faith-based non-profit organizations and churches,” Rev. Jamie Johnson, director of the Department of Homeland Security’s Center for Faith-Based & Neighborhood Partnerships, told USA Today. “It’s a beautiful relationship between government and the private sector and it is something to behold.”

American Atheists argued, however, that churches do not provide “essential government-type services” and should therefore be satisfied with being eligible for federally subsidized loans and ineligible to receive federal relief funds for rebuilding.

“American Atheists will continue to monitor the implementation of this policy change and will consider all remedies available to prevent taxpayer money going directly to houses of worship— without accountability or transparency—in order to further their religious activities,” the organization’s statement reads.

photo by photoSteve101 via Flickr

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- Roxanne "Butter" Bracco began with the Dispatch as Pittsburgh Correspondent, but will be providing reports and insights from Washington DC, Maryland and the surrounding region. Contact Roxie aka "Butter" at theglobaldispatch@gmail ATTN: Roxie or Butter Bracco

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