In Harvest Family Church v. Federal Emergency Management Agency, (SD TX, Dec. 7, 2017), a Texas federal district court refused to issue a preliminary injunction against a FEMA Policy Guideline that bars disaster relief grants to facilities that are used primarily for religious activities. (The Guideline also bars grants to facilities used primarily for political, athletic, recreational, vocational, or academic activities.)  The court concluded that plaintiff had not shown a substantial likelihood of success on its Free Exercise challenge to the Guideline.  It held that the case is governed not by the U.S. Supreme Court’s Trinity Lutheran decision, but instead by the Supreme Court’s decision in Locke v. Davey:[T]he Locke plaintiff was not denied a scholarship because of what he was, but “because of what he proposed to do—use the funds to prepare for the ministry.” … In Trinity Lutheran, on the other hand … [t]he funds were not denied because of what they would be used for—a non-religious use—but because of the church’s status as a religious institution…. In the instant case, FEMA’s policy is closer to the scholarship in Locke. Plaintiffs would use the FEMA funds to rebuild facilities used primarily to promote religious activities…. Further, FEMA’s policy even distinguishes based on use, rather than status or identity… reports on the decision. [Thanks to Marty Lederman via Religionlaw for the lead.]



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