Update (2/20/13): Recognizing that the humanitarian needs in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy are tragic and significant, the Anti-Defamation League will not oppose pending legislation making funding available through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help rebuild any institution destroyed or seriously damaged in this storm.
This position does not represent any lessening of ADL’s concerns regarding the risk to religious liberty posed when government funds transmitted to religious institutions directly advance the religious mission of those institutions. We continue to believe as a matter of principle that keeping government out of religion is the best way to safeguard religious freedom.
The Constitution protects religious freedom by preventing the government from funding or endorsing any religion. FEMA funding in this instance should not be interpreted as conveying any endorsement of religion.
New York, NY, January 4, 2013 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today expressed "real concerns" at a proposed amendment to the multibillion dollar Hurricane Sandy recovery appropriations bill that would place houses of worship on the list of organizations that would qualify for government aid.
ADL issued the following statement:
While the humanitarian needs in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy are tragic and significant, we have real concerns about opening the door to direct government funding for houses of worship.
Houses of worship are special – not like other non-profits and not like other buildings. They receive special constitutional protections from government interference, special tax-exempt benefits for contributions, and have special restrictions that prohibit direct public funding.
It is not discriminatory to prohibit federal funds for rebuilding houses of worship, because the Constitution protects religious freedom by preventing the government from funding or endorsing any religion. A taxpayer should not have to fund a religion or a religious institution with which he or she disagrees.
And while the destructive power of hurricanes and other natural disasters are 100 percent neutral, government bureaucrats making funding allocation decisions about which storm damage to cover – and in what amounts – may not be neutral, and may well make decisions on the basis of favored or majority religions.