Should tax-exempt organizations, specifically churches, receive funding and reimbursement for hurricane damages from your tax dollars? That seems to be the question of the moment. Pretend president Donald Trump thinks the government should give the churches all the money with no questions asked, as he tweeted on Friday:
Churches in Texas should be entitled to reimbursement from FEMA Relief Funds for helping victims of Hurricane Harvey (just like others).
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 9, 2017
Perhaps the better question would be — WHAT EXACTLY would they be using the funds for? Churches are in an odd situation with their tax-exempt status. They have opened their doors, used their resources, and provided a safe refuge for storm victims. Are they asking for reimbursement of expenses they would not normally have incurred? Or are they trying to bilk the government to rebuild their structures at government expense?
The Washington Post reports:
The Harvest Family Church, the Hi-Way Tabernacle and the Rockport First Assembly of God were all damaged during Harvey, according to a lawsuit filed Monday in the U.S. District Court for Southern District of Texas. The First Assembly of God lost its steeple, roof and church van, while the other two churches were severely flooded.
According to the lawsuit, they are seeking reimbursement for structural damage due to the storm. The lawsuit uses the fact that the Hi-Way Tabernacle is a FEMA staging center. They have provided refuge for 70 people and sent meals out to 8,000 more. As such, they expect their building costs to be reimbursed by FEMA in the form of grants.
I personally hold the opinion that churches should be reimbursed for expenditures they would not ordinarily have incurred if they have opened their doors and provided shelter and sustenance to victims. I am, however, totally against the issuance of grants to rebuild structures damaged as a result of any ‘act of nature.’
Churches are tax-exempt. They don’t put into the pool that creates the funds that make up the grant money used. They should have insurance policies and building funds from their donations and tithing to cover those expenses. Suing the government over policies based on their own chosen status as tax-exempt is a waste of everyone’s time and a burden on our government that they surely don’t need at the moment.