House Subcommittee Votes to Pass Jindal Bill Preventing Discrimination after Natural Disasters
H.R. 3208 would require that the Federal Emergency Management Agency not discriminate on the basis of religion when awarding disaster grants
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings & Emergency Management today debated and passed H.R. 3208, a bill introduced by Congressman Bobby Jindal (LA-01) that allows the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide disaster relief to eligible faith-based social organizations.
"FEMA was created to help America rebuild after disasters," Jindal said. "It was not created to be a force for those seeking to remove religion from all public dialogue, though that is its effect when it won't assist religious facilities in their rebuilding efforts. This law requires that American disaster assistance apply to all Americans."
H.R. 3208 codifies into law a directive of the President from December of 2002, which called on FEMA to provide disaster relief to eligible faith-based social organizations. The President's directive was issued in response to a 2001 incident where the Seattle Hebrew Academy was denied relief funds after the school was damaged in the Nisqually Earthquake on grounds that the school was not open to "the general public." This law makes permanent that ruling, preventing it from being modified or revoked with future changes of the presidency.
"Natural disasters don't chose who they affect based on religion," Jindal added. "Likewise, the federal government should not use religion as a basis for deciding who to help when cleaning up after those disasters. FEMA's responsibility is to help rebuild communities and to try to make lives whole again. That effort requires community wide, not targeted, selective, and potentially discriminatory, actions. This administration has already taken a positive step forward in protecting all disaster victims. This bill furthers that effort, making sure that the force of American law prevents this sort of discrimination in the future."
The bill now moves before the full committee for its approval.