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The Alliance Defense Fund reports that they have sent complaint letters to FEMA after FEMA refused to assist Southside Community Church in Arkansas in cleanin up storm debris.  FEMA had previously used the church’s facilities, without asking, as a partial operational base in assisting the community in cleanup after ice storms.

FEMA denies debris clean-up to Ark. church that aided FEMA, storm victims

ADF attorneys send letter to FEMA
Thursday, March 26, 2009, 9:05 AM (MST) |
ADF Media Relations | 480-444-0020


PARAGOULD, Ark. — The Federal Emergency Management Agency has denied storm debris clean-up to a Paragould church whose property the agency used for its debris clean-up efforts in the community and despite the efforts of church members to assist with the clean-up after recent ice storms.  Alliance Defense Fund attorneys sent a letter to FEMA officials on behalf of the church Wednesday.

“It’s unbelievable that FEMA, which benefitted from the church’s help, would slap it in the face in this way by refusing to pick up the church’s own storm debris.  Furthermore, FEMA’s decision may be unconstitutional and a violation of federal law,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley.  “Sadly, this church isn’t the only one that FEMA wouldn’t help.”

President Obama declared Greene County, Arkansas, a disaster area following major ice storms in January.  FEMA used Southside Community Church’s property as a partial base of operations for the clean-up effort.  The church, whose members also traveled to assist with clean-up efforts after Hurricane Katrina, was more than willing to allow use of its property for the ongoing disaster relief efforts even though FEMA did not ask the church’s permission to use its property.  FEMA workers used the property as a main turn-around point for its trucks, repaired trucks on the church’s property, and parked on the church’s property to supervise progress and complete paperwork.

In addition to church members assisting others in the community with debris cleanup, the church also cleaned up its own debris from the ice storm.  Following instructions in the local media that all properties should pile their debris by the street for FEMA to pick up, the church piled its debris near the street, but a FEMA supervisor advised the church that FEMA would not be collecting the church’s debris because “churches are considered a commercial business.”  FEMA denied assistance to other churches in the community as well.

“The denial of disaster relief to Southside Community Church constitutes discrimination in its worst form,” the ADF letter states.  “A church is not a ‘commercial business’ but is a vital community partner and participant in disaster relief….  Further, the rationale that a church is a ‘commercial enterprise’ seems to mask the fact that what is really occurring here is religious discrimination….  FEMA is mandated to provide disaster services without discriminating on the grounds of religion.”

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith.  Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.

www.telladf.org

Note: Facts in ADF news releases are verified prior to publication but may change over time. Members of the media are encouraged to contact ADF for the latest information on this matter.

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