Unconstitutional: Trump signs new budget deal giving taxpayer money to churches in direct violation of the U.S. Constitution.
In disastrous news for those who respect the U.S. Constitution and the secular values upon which this nation was founded, President Donald Trump has signed The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018.
Contained in the new budget are provisions which seriously damage the separation of church and state guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
In particular, the new budget allows FEMA funds to be used to rebuild churches and other houses of worship damaged or destroyed by natural disasters:
“(C) RELIGIOUS FACILITIES. — A church, synagogue, mosque, temple, or other house of worship, educational facility, or any other private nonprofit facility, shall be eligible for contributions under paragraph (1)(B), without regard to the religious character of the facility or the primary religious use of the facility. No house of worship, educational facility, or any other private nonprofit facility may be excluded from receiving contributions under paragraph (1)(B) because leadership or membership in the organization operating the house of worship is limited to persons who share a religious faith or practice.”.
Larry T. Decker, Executive Director of the Secular Coalition for America, explains how dangerous Trump’s new budget is:
This bill would rebuild churches by knocking down the wall of separation between church and state. Contrary to the religious right’s talking points, houses of worship can already be reimbursed for any costs they incur while providing relief and assistance during natural disasters. This provision hidden in the Bipartisan Budget Act would give churches a special entitlement to taxpayer money by requiring FEMA to fund the reconstruction of religious facilities. It is unconstitutional and unconscionable for Congress to decree that churches are entitled to taxpayer funding. The First Amendment guarantees all Americans the right to decide for themselves what religious institutions, if any, they support with their money. If Congress votes to put FEMA in the business of building churches, it will violate this core constitutional principle and compromise the very foundation of our secular government.
Alison Gill, legal and policy director of American Atheists, said:
Congress is literally taking money from the individuals and communities who most need disaster relief and giving it to unaccountable houses of worship. Houses of worship are exempt from even the most basic financial disclosure requirements, and giving them taxpayer funds to build altars, minarets, and holy arks is a recipe for fraud and abuse.
Calling the new budget deal a “dangerous piece of legislation,” the Freedom From Religion Foundation notes:
The act would unconstitutionally entangle church and state financially by sending federal funds to religious organizations. This dangerous piece of legislation … would legislate the government’s authorization for religious organizations to use Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) money to build churches.
Like all nonprofits, religious groups can already be reimbursed for disaster relief aid they provide to the community. But this act and FEMA’s recent change in policy — which now allows houses of worship to apply for federal assistance — will allow religious institutions exclusive access to funding for their facilities used specifically for worship. Whether or not they have actually provided relief to their community during or after a disaster will not matter.
This act is an affront to the American foundational principle that citizens may not be taxed to attend, erect or support churches.
Bottom line: In an unconstitutional and clear violation of the separation of church and state, Trump’s new budget deal sends taxpayer money to churches and other houses of worship.