9.28.2005

Good Deeds for Cash



FEMA Plans To Reimburse Faith Groups for Aid

from The Washington Post

After weeks of prodding by Republican lawmakers and the American Red Cross, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said Monday that it will use taxpayer money to reimburse churches and other religious organizations that have opened their doors to provide shelter, food, and supplies to survivors of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

FEMA officials said it would mark the first time that the government has made large-scale payments to religious groups for helping to cope with a domestic natural disaster.

"I believe it's appropriate for the federal government to assist the faith community because of the scale and scope of the effort and how long it's lasting," said Joe Becker, senior vice president for preparedness and response with the Red Cross.

Civil liberties groups called the decision a violation of the traditional boundary between church and state, accusing FEMA of trying to restore its battered reputation by playing to religious conservatives.

"What really frosts me about all this is, here is an administration that didn't do its job and now is trying to dig itself out by making right-wing groups happy," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

For churches, synagogues and mosques that have taken in hurricane survivors, FEMA's decision presents a quandary. Some said they were eager to get the money and had begun tallying their costs, from electric bills to worn carpets. Others said they probably would not apply for the funds, fearing donations would dry up if the public came to believe they were receiving government handouts.

"Volunteer labor is just that: volunteer," said the Rev. Robert E. Reccord, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's North American Mission Board. "We would never ask the government to pay for it."

When Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, religious charities rushed in to provide emergency services, often acting more quickly and efficiently than the government. Relief workers in the stricken states estimate that 500,000 people have taken refuge in facilities run by religious groups.

Even so, Lynn said that federal reimbursement is inappropriate.

"The good news is that this work is being done now, but I don't think a lot of people realize that a lot of these organizations are actively working to obtain federal funds. That's a strange definition of charity," he said.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

So are they going to allow secular organizations to apply for rebimbursment as well?

September 28, 2005 2:20 PM  
Blogger Darren said...

Oh, I would think so. I think the new twist is them letting religions do the same - even though they discriminate in hiring and don't obey the same laws as other secular organizations (not that Habitat for Humanity would want to discriminate in hiring anyway). I thought doing good was supposed to be its own reward, or the reward was Heaven. Now they want cash to do good deeds. Jesus must be spinning in his grave.

October 08, 2005 9:31 PM  

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