President Trump is a tough leader, but the hurricane disaster relief has brought his compassion to the fore and is even impressing some of his critics.
On Thursday the president threw his support behind churches struggling to get disaster relief money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Three Texan churches filed a federal lawsuit this week to get access to those funds after being damaged in the storm.
The lawsuit alleges they are not getting a “fair shake” from FEMA, claiming the agency “categorically excludes houses of worship from equal access to disaster relief grants because of their religious status.”
President Trump took up their cause, voicing his support on Twitter on Friday:
Churches in Texas should be entitled to reimbursement from FEMA Relief Funds for helping victims of Hurricane Harvey (just like others).
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 9, 2017
One of the churches damaged by Harvey, the Hi-Way Tabernacle, had been a FEMA shelter and operations point, preparing over 8,000 meals for those affected by the storm.
Republican Senator Ben Sasse also got behind the churches, writing a letter to FEMA Administration Brock Long condemning possible discrimination against churches:
“It sends the message that communities of worship aren’t welcome to participate fully in public life … It reduces the facilities and volunteer time, talent, and effort available to support the broader community.”
For its part, FEMA told The Hill that religious organizations that assisted the relief effort could be eligible for funds, saying:
“Any private non-profit (PNP) organization, including a religious organization that provides eligible services may be eligible for federal assistance under FEMA’s Public Assistance Program (PA) to help restore its facilities and equipment,”
Note that this is only if churches provide disaster relief services. There were no comments reported for churches receiving aid if they were not a part of the relief effort (if they were too damaged to help, for instance).
President Trump’s support of this issue is a great sign for faith-based institutions, and will hopefully go a long way in bringing about legislative change that can help these important pillars of every community.