Late in the summer of 2017, Hurricane Harvey pummeled parts of Texas and Louisiana for days with record-breaking flooding. On its heels came Hurricane Irma, devastating areas of Florida with severe winds and more flooding.
These disasters affected hundreds, and possibly thousands, of churches, temples, synagogues, and other religious organizations. At the height of the crisis and despite suffering crippling damage, churches and houses of worship provided vital assistance to the people in their neighborhoods and communities.
But there was a problem. FEMA policies prohibited many of the afflicted churches and houses of worship from applying for and receiving aid simply because they were religious institutions. Although many of these institutions qualified for disaster relief, they were unable to obtain the relief they needed at the most critical time.
On September 20, 2017, First Liberty Institute sent a letter to FEMA, pointing out that President Trump could easily correct this discriminatory policy. By January 2018, FEMA announced it would expand its guidelines to include houses of worship among those eligible to receive disaster relief.