Secular Coalition Says Congress Has No Business Building Churches

Washington, DC -- The Secular Coalition for America released a statement today condemning a bill recently introduced in the Senate (S.1823) which would amend the Stafford Act to allow churches and other houses of worship to receive grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for the repair, restoration, and replacement of damaged facilities. The Senate bill, introduced by Senators Blunt (R-MO), Cornyn (R-TX), Lankford (R-OK), and Cruz (R-TX) is a companion to (H.R. 2405) which was reintroduced by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) earlier this year.

"The government cannot compel taxpayers to support religious institutions," said Larry T. Decker, Executive Director of the Secular Coalition for America. "True religious freedom is the right for all Americans to decide for themselves what houses of worship if any, they support with their money. This legislation violates this fundamental freedom, protected by the Establishment Clause, by using taxpayer money to literally build churches. Our hearts go out to all who were impacted by the recent hurricanes but religious freedom is a value that must be defended in the best and worst of times. This legislation, however well-intentioned, will rebuild houses of worship by knocking down the wall of separation between church and state."

On Wednesday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton sent an open letter to President Trump urging him to give houses of worship access to the same funds as secular institutions. The letter cites the recent Supreme Court case of Trinity Lutheran v. Comer as providing a precedent for churches to be eligible to receive public grants. In the case of Trinity Lutheran v. Comer, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that a Missouri church was eligible to receive a grant to renovate a playground on its property.

"It is frankly appalling to see the religious right and the lawmakers beholden to them using these recent tragedies as a pretense to advance their agenda," said Decker. "As someone who spent nearly ten years working for the Red Cross, I've worked with faith organizations in the aftermath of natural disasters. Faith groups and houses of worship already have access to commodities and goods to aid in their sheltering and feeding operations. I support ensuring those commodities make it to places where people are being cared for but, it cannot be stressed enough, that this is not what this bill does. This legislation crosses a dangerous new line by putting the government in the business of building churches."

Contact: Casey Brescia

Communications Associate and Spokesman

[email protected], (845)-380-6201


The Secular Coalition for America is the nation's premier advocacy organization representing atheists, humanists, agnostics, and other nontheists. Its mission is to increase the visibility of and respect for nontheistic viewpoints in the United States, and to protect and strengthen the secular character of our government as the best guarantee of freedom for all. The Secular Coalition represents 18 voting member organizations.

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