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After Superstorm Sandy, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) denied funds to the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association—a Methodist group that wished to repair the community boardwalk damaged in the hurricane. The reason for the denied appeal? FEMA stated that the private non-profit organization could not receive funds for repairs to recreational areas. In addition, FEMA has in recent years cracked down on not assisting religious groups due to regulations necessitating the separation of church and state.

Should Faith-Based Organizations Receive FEMA Aid?

In Keansburg, New Jersey, private non-profit Project Paul has been helping the community for three decades. But because the group is faith-based in nature, the organization was denied funds to repair damages after Hurricane Sandy. In addition, FEMA declined to help a number of religious groups in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

While some people believe that FEMA’s lack of assistance for religious organizations makes sense due to the separation of church and state, others believe that the federal government has been too harsh in this respect, especially considering that many faith-based organizations provide a range of community services.

House Bill to Allow FEMA Funding for Religious Groups

In 2012, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would allow FEMA to grant aid to churches and other religious groups, though the bill did not pass the Senate. Supporters of the bill believe that the new law would stop discrimination against churches and religious groups; opponents of the bill worry that aiding churches would cost taxpayers dearly and inflate an already large budget.

Bill Voss
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