Churches file lawsuit against FEMA after being denied aid

CYPRESS, Texas (KTRK) -- Three Texas churches are suing FEMA because they want access to disaster relief money after their buildings were damaged by Hurricane Harvey.

President Trump even commented on it in September tweeting, "Churches in Texas should be entitled to reimbursement from FEMA Relief Funds for helping victims of Hurricane Harvey (just like others)."

The churches are arguing that they should have the same access to disaster relief grants that any other entity has.

"The churches aren't getting their help. The churches are being told they have to wait and the churches are being denied the opportunity for equal access here," said Daniel Blomberg, counsel for the plaintiffs.

Harvest Family Church in Cypress, Hi Way Tabernacle in Cleveland and Rockport First Assembly of God sustained heavy damage from flooding.

All three churches, along with many other houses of worship from a number of different faiths, have been told since Hurricane Harvey that they are not eligible for FEMA aid.

The suit they've filed is a challenge of FEMA's policy which they say excludes them, "solely because they are houses of worship, that's because of their religious nature."

The churches say this is a violation of the First Amendment of the constitution, calling it religious discrimination.

FEMA told the judge its policies are currently on hold and not being implemented or enforced. An attorney for FEMA says the agency is doing a comprehensive review of its policies.

In the meantime, the churches say they are stuck on the sidelines because of their faith, unable to take advantage of other recovery money given to other non-profits.

"While the churches are being forced to sit at the back of the bus, these other organizations are being allowed to go ahead and that's not fair and that's all the churches are asking for here is a fair shake," said Blomberg.

The judge is expected to make a ruling on this case in the coming month.

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