WASHINGTON—Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, and Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski, bishop of Springfield, Massachusetts and chairman of the USCCB Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, urged Members of Congress to support passage of the Federal Disaster Assistance Nonprofit Fairness Act of 2017 (H.R. 2405 / S. 1823). An almost identical bill passed the House in 2013 with overwhelming bipartisan support.
In September 27 letters to the House and Senate, in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, Archbishop Lori and Bishop Rozanski asked Representatives and Senators to support the legislation, which would ensure the fair and equal treatment for houses of worship damaged in natural disasters by enabling them to seek aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
The letters noted that the "legislation is consistent with Supreme Court jurisprudence, which recognizes the right of religious institutions to receive public financial aid in the context of a broad program administered on the basis of religion-neutral criteria." The letters note the 2017 Trinity Lutheran Church case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, which provides a firm legal foundation for such assistance.
Archbishop Lori and Bishop Rozanski explained that "houses of worship often play an irreplaceable role in the recovery of a community" after a natural disaster.
"Discrimination that treats houses of worship as ineligible for federal assistance in the wake of a natural disaster, beyond being a legal violation, hurts the very communities most affected by the indiscriminate force of nature," said Archbishop Lori and 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