Federal Disaster Assistance Nonprofit Fairness Act of 2013by Representative Joseph R. Pitts
Posted on 2013-02-13
PITTS. Madam Speaker, I'm pleased to speak on behalf of my friend
Mr. Smith's sensible legislation to help rebuild communities destroyed
by Hurricane Sandy.
Federal assistance is intended to make communities whole; and if we leave behind ruined houses of worship, we're taking the soul out of those places. Churches, synagogues, and other houses of worship are an essential piece of any community. They provide shelter in storms, assistance to the needy, and support for families. And they provide essential services and support to people of all faiths.
In previous disasters, including Katrina, the Seattle earthquake and the Oklahoma City bombing, the Federal Government has extended assistance to places of worship. Areas affected by Sandy should be no different.
I'm a strong supporter of the First Amendment, and I believe that this assistance is completely compatible with our Constitution. Assistance will be distributed without prejudice against any particular religion. Government cannot endorse religion, but that does not mean we should discriminate against those of faith during a time of disaster. Recovery cannot be considered successful if sacred places of our community are left empty.
Family Research Council, Washington, DC, February 12, 2013.
U.S. Representative, Washington, DC.
Dear Representative: On behalf of the Family Research Council (FRC) and the families we represent, I am writing today in strong support of H.R. 592, the ``Federal Disaster Assistance Nonprofit Fairness Act of 2013'' by Reps. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Grace Meng (D-NY). H.R. 592 would ensure that houses of worship would not be denied the same relief offered to other entities following a major storm or disaster.
Following every disaster, natural and man made that has hit the United States, our houses of worship have been there to help. Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, churches, relief organizations and Christian organizations went into emergency response mode sending help in the form of money, food, supplies and volunteers. When Katrina struck Louisiana, it was religious entities that helped the victims and refugees despite being affected by the storm as well. This is just as true with the recent Hurricane Sandy that struck our Eastern seaboard.
Houses of worship across the Northeast including many faiths and denominations were among the private nonprofit facilities that sustained damage. However, it was the churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, and other houses of worship throughout communities in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and elsewhere that provided relief to many individuals while the federal government seemingly did little.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) own policies allow for grants to nonprofit organizations where citizens are known to gather and engage in a variety of educational, enrichment, and social activities. However, it is internal FEMA policy that does not believe houses of worship are worthy of the same type of relief.
H.R. 592 is consistent with recent precedents of the Supreme Court of the United States and legal opinions issued by the Office of Legal Counsel of the Department of Justice. We strongly urge your vote for this necessary legislation.
Sincerely, Tom McClusky, Senior Vice President.
Mr. RAHALL. How much time do I have remaining, please, Madam Speaker? The SPEAKER pro tempore. The gentleman from West Virginia has 8\1/2\ minutes remaining.
Mr. RAHALL. I yield 5 minutes to the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Scott).