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US House passes bill to give federal aid to houses of worship

US House passes bill to give federal aid to houses of worship

The God Discussion reported yesterday on a statement released by Americans United that urged 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.

That bill was passed by the house Wednesday with an overwhelming majority of 354-72, and will allow houses of worship damaged by Hurricane Sandy to receive federal disaster aid from FEMA.

According to a story filed by CBS News, the Executive Director for the Orthodox Union was interviewed by radio station WCBS 880 AM, and stated,

“There’s a very vivid photograph of waterlogged Torah scrolls being spread out across two benches because they were not removed."

Supporters of the bill said that houses of worship should be able to receive federal aid because they 'serve their stricken communities with help such as shelter and food.'

One of the co-writers of the provision to include houses of worship in the list of non-profit, private businesses that are eligible for federal aid, New Jersey U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, stated,

“Well, currently, FEMA is acting in a very discriminatory way. There’s nothing in the current statutes to say they have to do this and they are denying claims made by synagogues and other houses of worship that have been absolutely devastated by superstorm Sandy. They’ve been denying any kind of reconstruction or repair with FEMA money."

Smith cited Oklahoma City, which received FEMA grants when that city fell victim to domestic terrorism. Smith further stated,

“We’re talking about damage. We’re not talking about a brand new construction program and it’s damage, just like the rest of the community, like private, non-profits, ought to be given the assistance to rebuild."

The bill will now be presented to the Senate.

For more information, commentary, audio clips and other relevant links, please read the whole story at CBS News.

About Al Stefanelli

Al is a retired author, writer and journalist. His books include "Free Thoughts - A Collection Of Essays By An American Atheist" and "A Voice Of Reason In An Unreasonable World - The Rise Of Atheism On Planet Earth." Al began writing in 1985, starting with the New York Times. In 1993 he joined a McClatchy newspaper, writing a weekly column for ten years. His writing continues to be widely distributed on the Internet and in print. He also produced and hosted a weekly syndicated radio broadcast from 1995 to 1998, and his work won a North Carolina Journalism award in 1998. Al is the former Georgia State Director for American Atheists, Inc., and served on the Board of Directors for "The Clergy Project." He is also a former Southern Baptist Pastor, having served two churches and as pulpit supply for three counties. Currently, he writes part time for The God Discussion, co-hosts the Internet radio programs, "The God Discussion Show" and "Reap Sow Radio." Al lives in the Atlanta suburb of Peachtree City, GA.
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