Three small churches damaged by Hurricane Harvey have sued FEMA in federal court over the agency’s policies that deny religious organizations the right to seek disaster relief funding to support community services. The lawsuit focuses its claims on a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that prohibited government discrimination against a Missouri church that had applied for funding for playground equipment. Nonprofits that have sustained damage from Harvey have a 30-day window to apply for emergency grants, but not all agencies are treated equally, the churches claim. In an interview with the Houston Chronicle, firm attorney David Coale says the churches’ complaint goes a step farther than previous cases by moving beyond exterior structures and building repairs into providing personal services. “On its face it’s a reasonable request — it’s a disaster and they need all the help they can get,” Coale said. “On the other hand, we are talking about giving people money to offer a place to sleep. There is stuff up in the church about religion and there will be people in the church providing a little bit of ministry.”
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