Skip To Content

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe
Fast Forward

House Passes Bill Allowing Disaster Funds For Houses Of Worship

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill that allows federal disaster relief funds to go to houses of worship.

On Thursday, the House voted 251-169 to approve the bill. The vote was not strictly along party lines, although more Republicans than Democrats favored it. The Senate is considering a similar bill.

Relief funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, may not go to churches, synagogues and other houses of worship due to concerns about separation of church and state. Other institutions, like community centers or zoos, may receive the funds. The money reimburses the institutions for aid they provide to victims of natural disasters.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers has long pushed for the change. In September, amid a string of hurricanes ravaging the Gulf Coast and the Caribbean, President Trump tweeted his support for churches receiving FEMA funds.

The Orthodox Union, an umbrella Orthodox body that has advocated such a change for years, said the bill will mean synagogues receive fair treatment.

“For far too long, FEMA has unfairly excluded houses of worship from this otherwise religion-neutral program,” its Washington director, Nathan Diament, said in a statement. “This legislation will finally put an end to this unconstitutional discrimination and help houses of worship get the relief they need from FEMA to rebuild after being damaged in natural disasters. We call upon the Senate to pass this legislation as well.”

Also praising the bill was Agudath Israel of America, another Orthodox umbrella body.

“Houses of worship are an integral part of American communities and play an important role in assisting devastated neighborhoods revitalize and rebuild,” Rabbi Abba Cohen, Agudah’s Washington director, said in a statement. “After natural disasters, they provide emotional, spiritual and material help to those in need.”


Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.