FEMA's plan to reimburse churches draws criticism

Watchdog groups concerned, others say no cause for alarm
The Federal Emergency Management Agency intends to reimburse religious groups that have offered relief to victims of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, marking a new step in the White House’s faith-based initiative.

The move by FEMA is being criticized by two watchdog groups on church-state separation, while a scholar knowledgeable about the faith-based initiative says it should not cause constitutional alarm.

Butch Kinerney, a spokesman for FEMA, said the government will reimburse sheltering expenses of private nonprofit organizations if they made an agreement with county or state government officials to house evacuees. “We want to make sure that every group, religious or nonreligious, which opens its doors and opens its arms to shelter evacuees from this storm is able to get compensated for its generosity,” Kinerney said in an interview.


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