A bill to provide federal funding to churches and nonprofits tied to religious organizations has passed the House, over the objections of one Democrat, Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, who found it unconstitutional.
The Federal Disaster Assistance Nonprofit Fairness Act was brought forth in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, introduced by Rep. Christopher H. Smith, New Jersey Republican, to ensure that the needs of places of worship or organizations with religious ties aren’t left out in the cold in rebuilding, Raw Story reports.
It “makes a church, synagogue, mosque, temple or other house of worship, and a private nonprofit facility operated by a religious organization, eligible for federal contributions for the repair, restoration and replacement of facilities damaged or destroyed by a major disaster,” the text of the bill reads on the Library of Congress‘ legislative services website.
Mr. Nadler calls the bill, which passed the House on Wednesday with a 354-72 vote, unconstitutional.
“Direct government funding of churches, synagogues and mosques has always been held to be unconstitutional,” he said, according to the Raw Story report. “The purpose of the bill is laudable. Unfortunately, it has real constitutional problems.”
Mr. Nadler then went on to call out the Republicans for hypocrisy.
“The Majority has made a big issue of respecting the Constitution,” he said in the Raw Story report. “We read the Constitution at the beginning of this Congress, and we are required to provide a statement of constitutional authority when we introduce a bill. But all that means very little if, when faced with a genuinely significant constitutional question, this House instead gives it the bum’s rush.”
Current law allows for houses of worship and religious organizations to file for federal loans to rebuild after disasters. The new bill, if passed by the Senate and signed into law, would allow for direct grants to these facilities.