Fema Plan To Rebuild Religious Schools And Other Religious Facilities Is Unconstitutional, Says Americans United

Taxpayers Should Not Be Forced To Subsidize Religion, Watchdog Group Says

A plan by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to spend taxpayer dollars to rebuild religious schools and other religious facilities violates constitutional provisions barring public support of religion, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

James Towey, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, told reporters yesterday that using public funds to rebuild religious facilities is permissible as long as no money goes directly to subsidize buildings used primarily for religious purposes. But Towey included religious schools what he called “faith-based educational facilities” in the list of eligible institutions.

“This policy is incoherent, unworkable and unconstitutional,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “Towey and FEMA seem to believe that religious schools aren’t primarily religious. What a ridiculous assertion.”

Lynn said the Supreme Court has never approved public funding for facilities used primarily for religious purposes. Religious schools, he noted, would certainly fit this standard. Many of them sponsor religious worship and weave religion into the curriculum throughout the school day.

“Religious facilities serve a private sectarian purpose and must be paid for by the denominations that sponsor them,” Lynn said. “Taxpayer funding of churches and church schools is simply not permitted by the Constitution.”

Lynn criticized the agency for using the tragic Gulf Coast hurricanes as yet another excuse to attack the wall of separation between church and state.

“In light of FEMA’s well-publicized recent failures, the best thing that agency could do is focus on helping people in need and stop messing with the Constitution,” Lynn said. “Religious groups receive billions annually in donations. They have the means to take care of themselves.”

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.