Hurricane Politics: Trump Tweets Against FEMA, Arguing for Reimbursing Religious Institutions

FEMA policy dictates reimbursements for disaster relief only if less than half of the organization's facilities are used for religious purposes, which Trump apparently disagrees with

Members of the Pine Forest Baptist Church hold Sunday services in the parking lot outside their damaged church, in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Harvey in Vidor, Texas, Sunday, Sept. 3
AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

President Donald Trump is taking the side of three Texas churches that are suing FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, over disaster relief funds, arguing that religious institutions should be reimbursed by the federal agency despite FEMA's own regulations.

The president writes on Twitter, "Churches in Texas should be entitled to reimbursement from FEMA Relief Funds for helping victims of Hurricane Harvey (just like others)." 

The Houston Chronicle reports that the three churches - Rockport First Assembly of God, Harvest Family Church and Hi-Way Tabernacle - sued FEMA on Tuesday for access to relief funding. The lawsuit claims FEMA violates the Constitution by denying disaster funding to faith-based groups.

FEMA has reimbursed churches for disaster relief efforts in the past, including after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, but agency policy dictates reimbursements only if less than half of the organization's facilities are used for religious purposes.

A Justice Department spokeswoman has told the Chronicle it is "aware of the complaint and will examine the claims."