Americans United released a statement urging the US House to reject funding from tax revenue to repair houses of worship. The statement is in response to a bill that would authorize the government to repair houses of worship damaged by the recent Hurricane Sandy, which devastated the northeastern part of the United States.
According to the statement, taxpayers should not be asked to pay for the repairs or reconstruction of these buildings. Americans United is urging a vote against HR 592, a measure that would authorize the Federal Emergency Management Agency to issue direct grants to churches and other religious institutions.
The House is scheduled to vote today on the Federal Disaster Assistance Nonprofit Fairness Act of 2013, and religious lobbies are urging Congress and the Obama administration to approve financial aid to religious institutions whose houses of worship have suffered damages in the October 2013 super storm.
Rev. Barry W. Lynn, the Executive Director for Americans United, stated,
“A fundamental rule of American life is that congregants, not the taxpayers, pay for the construction and repair of houses of worship. We must not let a storm sweep away the wall of separation between church and state.”
According to the press release, public funding of religion is in violation of the Constitution, and has cited federal court decisions that bars government support for buildings used primarily for worship.
Rev. Lynn made it a point to note that even the Bush II administration would not approve FEMA funding of church reconstruction in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
Americans United Legislative Director Maggie Garrett stated that non-profit organizations and businesses are eligible for government loans, but not grants. She stated,
“Although it may not be seem easy in times of tragedy to tell those seeking aid that they are ineligible for government grants,the bar on the government rebuilding of houses of worship is an important limitation that exists to protect religious freedom for all.
It upholds the fundamental principle that no taxpayer should be forced to fund a religion with whom he or she disagrees,” she continued, “and that the government should never support building (“establishing” religion in its most basic form) religious sanctuaries. And, it protects against the government favoring, or creating the perception of favoritism for, certain religions over others.”
For more information and the complete press release, please visit Americans United.