H.R. 592: Taxpayer Money to Tax-Exempt Churches Act

The House of Representatives passed a bill that would allow direct cash grants of taxpayer money to go to religious institutions (that don’t pay taxes) for disaster relief, despite the fact that the First Amendment doesn’t allow taxpayer money to go to religions.

H.R. 592: Taxpayer Money to Tax-Exempt Churches Act Federal Disaster Assistance Nonprofit Fairness Act 

SEC. 2. FINDINGS.

Houses of worship sustained damage during Hurricane Sandy

SEC. 3. INCLUSION OF HOUSES OF WORSHIP AS PRIVATE NONPROFIT FACILITIES ELIGIBLE FOR DISASTER RELIEF.

(a) DEFINITION OF PRIVATE NONPROFIT FACILITY

“The term ‘private nonprofit facility’ includes any private nonprofit facility that provides essential services of a governmental nature to the general public (including museums, zoos, performing arts facilities, community arts centers, community centers, including houses of worship exempt from taxation under section 501(c) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, libraries, homeless shelters, senior citizen centers, rehabilitation facilities, shelter workshops, and facilities that provide health and safety services of a governmental nature), as defined by the President.”.

(b) REPAIR, RESTORATION, AND REPLACEMENT OF DAMAGED FACILITIES.

Adds to existing law:

‘‘(C) HOUSES OF WORSHIP.—A church, synagogue, mosque, temple, or other house of worship, and a private nonprofit facility operated by a religious organization, shall be eligible for contributions under paragraph (1)(B), without regard to the religious character of the facility or the primary religious use of the facility.”.

(c) APPLICABILITY. Will apply to a major disaster or emergency declared on or after October 28, 2012.

Things to Keep in Mind:
* Direct government funding of religious buildings is unconstitutional under the First Amendment
* Supreme Court ruling on State grants for maintaining religious schools:

“If the State may not erect buildings in which religious activities are to take place, it may not maintain such buildings or renovate them when they fall into disrepair.”

* This bill provides direct cash grants to repair, restore, or REBUILD religious buildings.
* These buildings are not available for use by the general public.
* Prayer and worship are not essential government functions.
* Bill never went through committee process. No amendments allowed.
* Religious buildings have access to SBA loans
* Religious institutions don’t pay taxes.

Passed the House on February 13, 2013 with an interesting mix of 72 “liberals” and Tea Partiers voting No.

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