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.
- Irma weakens to Category 1 storm as it strikes Tampa
- Mikveh saves lives during Hurricane Irma on St. Martin
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."