FEMA Continues to Discriminate Against Churches and Synagogues Devastated by Superstorm Sandy

Rep_Chris_Smith_addressing_House_subcommittee (800x508)WASHINGTON, DC –It has been five long months since the House overwhelmingly passed my legislation to ensure that houses of worship are no longer discriminated against under Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) rules,”  said Rep. Chris Smith, author of H.R. 592, the “Federal Disaster Assistance Nonprofit Fairness Act of 2013.”


When a bill passes the House by such a strong, bipartisan margin of 354-72, it is hoped that the Senate will work aggressively to send it to the President’s desk.  The legislation is desperately needed to put fairness back into our disaster relief programs.


I welcome the bipartisan efforts of Senators Kirsten Gillebrand (D-NY) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) in their introduction of a Senate companion bill, S. 1274, this week and I am delighted and encouraged that New Jersey Sen. Jeff Chiesa has signed on as well. I am confident their leadership will help break the log jam and bring equity to the program.”


Smith, who has personally met with Senators Tom Carper and Tom Coburn, the chair and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, said that they each raised some concerns that Smith believed could be easily addressed in a bill markup session. Having a companion bill will hopefully help show support in the Senate and advance the issue. Smith also met with FEMA head Craig Fugate to discuss the bill and the current unfair treatment of houses of worship compared to other non-profits.


Regrettably, through its own rules and regulations, FEMA continues to discriminate against houses of worship while other federal entities such as the Small Business Administration and Homeland Security do not,” Smith said.  “It’s time FEMA get up to date and recognize that superstorms are indiscriminant in their damage and faith-based organizations welcome and greatly assist all victims affected by a disaster. For a community to fully recover, the houses of worship that often are the centers of emergency assistance also need to receive recovery assistance.”

In February, Smith, along with original co-sponsors Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY-06) and Peter King (R-NY-02), introduced the legislation to put houses of worship—many of which were severely damaged by Superstorm Sandy but nonetheless continued to serve ravaged coastal communities—on an even playing field with other non-profit organizations seeking disaster assistance.
The House acted decisively to correct this blatant unfairness. We now need the Senate to act,” said Smith.  “H.R. 592 and the Senate companion bill are about those who are being unfairly left out and left behind. It’s about those who helped feed, comfort, clothe and shelter tens of thousands of victims now being told they are ineligible for a FEMA grant. It is unconscionable that foundational pillars of our communities damaged by Sandy—synagogues, churches, mosques, temples and other houses of worship—have been categorically denied access to these otherwise generally-available relief funds. Current FEMA policy is patently unfair, unjustified and discriminatory and may even suggest hostility to religion.”


There are precedents for federal aid to disaster-damaged houses of worship. After the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, Congress overruled FEMA’s refusal to provide assistance to the damaged churches. In 2002, after an earthquake in Seattle, the Justice Department intervened to order FEMA to assist religious organizations damaged by the quake.
The Smith bill has been endorsed by numerous organization and individuals, including (click on links to view letters):


Alan Dershowitz, Harvard Law Professor

American Jewish Committee

Council of New York City

Family Research Council

The Jewish Federations of North America

Douglas Laycock, University of Virginia Law School Professor

The Most Rev. William Murphy, Bishop of Rockville Centre (Long Island)

N.J. State Assn. of Jewish Federations

National Association of Evangelicals

The Most Rev. David O’Connell, Bishop of Trenton

Speaker Christine C. Quinn, Council of the City of New York

Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America

United Jewish Appeal (UJA) of N.Y.

U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops

Posted: July 11th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Chris Smith, FEMA, Press Release | Tags: , | 10 Comments »

10 Comments on “FEMA Continues to Discriminate Against Churches and Synagogues Devastated by Superstorm Sandy”

  1. FEMA Shuns Religious Groups | The Save Jersey Blog said at 7:45 pm on July 11th, 2013:

    […] By Art Gallagher | MoreMonmouthMusings.com […]

  2. Tom Stokes said at 8:01 pm on July 11th, 2013:

    Thank God we actually have a fighter in Chris Smith as our Congressman.

    Where does Frank Pallone and Rush Holt stand on this? Frank Pallone voted YES, Rush Holt voted NO.

    It’s about time to stop discriminating against people of faith!

    Many religious institutions have been in the forefront of providing assistance after a disaster. They should not be discriminated against just because they
    believe in God.

  3. » MoreMonmouthMusings » Blog Archive » FEMA Continues to … said at 1:38 am on July 12th, 2013:

    […] MoreMonmouthMusings » Blog Archive » FEMA Continues to … Go to this article […]

  4. This is par for the course for said at 8:33 am on July 12th, 2013:

    the democrats. Their entire agenda is let big government take care of you, be dependent on big government, let it control your entire life. They see the religion, the family and the ownership of personal property as threats to this ideology. Therefore, they try to breakdown the bonds of marrige(gay marriage) , they minimize and try to force secular laws on religion(the morning after pill debacle) and they do all they can to control the redistribution of wealth that is earned.

    For those dems that do not believe this, they are using holding back approval as a bargaining chip for approval of that nightmare of an immigration reform bill.

  5. Tommy De Seno said at 9:27 am on July 12th, 2013:

    FEMA should exist to get essential government services back on line after a storm.

    Nothing more.

    Fix your own damn house. Buy insurance. Leave your neighbor alone.

  6. Middletowner said at 11:02 am on July 12th, 2013:

    This lost me at “… Fairness Act of …”.

    In Washington-speak, Fairness means taking from someone who earns and giving to someone who doesn’t.

  7. Stronger Than the Scorn | The Save Jersey Blog said at 2:13 pm on July 12th, 2013:

    […] By Art Gallagher | MoreMonmouthMusings.com […]

  8. frithguild said at 5:10 pm on July 12th, 2013:

    Tommy, I agree with your sentiments, however, look at Ocean Grove. FEMA paid for boardwalk repair in ’92, then it took a full about face this year. OG didn’t get insurance before Sandy, because it though it was covered by FEMA. If none of the boards are covered fine. That way insurance can be purchased. But why should the OG boardwalk be different from say, Asbury?

    While in Asbury, the President said he had our backs. If you have religion, it looks like Ocean Grove when Barack has your back.

  9. But but but said at 3:07 pm on July 13th, 2013:

    Ocean grove’s FEMA application for storm restoration funding for the boardwalk was officially because it the boardwalk was a nonessential recreational pathway, not because it’s owned by a religious organization. And you can’t buy storm or flood insurance for a boardwalk. That’s what Seaside heights, Belmar, Avon, Asbury park and others had to bond to rebuild their beachfronts.

  10. frithguild said at 8:09 am on July 15th, 2013:

    Thanks for the info – I will look into that