Does FEMA Discriminate Against Churches?
by Noah Lugeons
The temerity of religious leaders never fails to amaze me. As I peruse the various Christian and religious news outlets in search of news items for the next show, I constantly come across the most brazenly illogical fury and anger. Christians stand within their echo chamber so often that they often lose track of just how full of shit they are.
The latest source for Christian Op-Ed ire is FEMA’s policy against giving federal grants to churches to rebuild after natural disasters. I’ve come across a couple of articles where these pulpit-pounders rail against the bigoted, heartless, merciless policy that refuses to give lump sums of tax payer money to organizations that refuse to pay taxes.
Seems simple to me. If you don’t pay into the pool, you don’t get to take from it. How simple is that? If I get sick, I can’t use my brother-in-laws insurance to pay for treatment, can I? If I didn’t throw in on the bag, I don’t get to smoke any of the weed. It’s some pretty simple shit when you apply logic to it.
But Christians and logic don’t get along and that much is obvious from their irate opinions on this matter. In 3 articles I read on the subject, not one single author bothers to even address the issue of churches not paying taxes. It’s as though it doesn’t even occur to them that the rest of us actually pay those taxes. It’s as though they don’t recognize that it is anti-American and anti-intelligence to give my tax dollars to a church to rebuild. It’s as though they don’t even realize that they don’t actually serve a function in the real world.
Take this article from the Christian Post. Author Paul de Vries couldn’t be more livid about how unfairly the churches are being treated. After all, he points out that the churches were the first to respond to victims of the storm and now, when they need help, FEMA is nowhere to be found.
The first problem with his point is that it’s complete bullshit. The first responders were police officers, fire fighters, utility workers and paramedics (that’s why we call those people “first responders”). Sure, many churches opened their doors to the suddenly homeless and distributed food and water and medicine in the aftermath of the disaster. But, of course, that is the only function they serve in the world and the only possible justification for making them tax exempt in the first place.
Many secular groups also pitched in and helped in the aftermath of the storm and many secular people volunteered for days and weeks after to assist in the cleanup (myself included). The secular groups were far more effective, of course, as they spent none of their time trying to evangelize and proselytize to the people who were coming to them for help.
But the preachers, pastors and priests would have you believe that if it weren’t for all those Christians, nobody would have been helping at all.
De Vries points out that religious organizations gave tens of millions of dollars to help the storm’s victims, but somehow it doesn’t occur to him that if FEMA started wasting its money rebuilding churches, they would be, in effect, taking back the money they just donated. What kind of slippery logic does one have to employ to argue that the fact that Christians gave money to the disaster somehow means that the disaster owes them money?
He calls the policy bigoted (despite the fact that it treats all houses of worship equally), he calls it “a severe penalty” (despite the fact that it isn’t a penalty no matter how broadly one defines penalty… it’s not like FEMA is billing them) and he even goes so far as to call it “a step down an insane and sinister slope”, arguing that before we know it they’ll be denying churches the use of police officers and firefighters.
I’m all for that, of course. If you don’t pay taxes you shouldn’t get any government services. That being said, I’m not in charge of anything but this blog and a podcast. I’m not making the law. The notion that the government is going to stop sending cops and firefighters to churches is almost too stupid to acknowledge, and it is too stupid to bother to refute. I only bring it up to point out that even when they name the logical fallacy within the logical fallacy, they still don’t see the logical fallacy.
But by far the worst collection of words in his whole self-aggrandizing treatise of nonsense is this one:
blocking FEMA grants to churches is to pretend to be ignorant of the continuing soul care needed by the many and various victims of Superstorm Sandy.
I should point out that those are his italics up there. I didn’t even need to highlight the clause that makes the statement such ravenous horse-shit. One of his arguments is that without these grants, churches can’t take care of the victim’s souls.
Now keep in mind that there’s not just some money-wizard down at FEMA who conjures up wads of cash or anything. They’re actually calling for money to be redirected to churches. They are actually asking that money that would otherwise go toward rebuilding homes and vital businesses go to churches instead. We should actually take money from the “make sure kids have roofs over their heads” fund and the “make sure employees have a place to go to earn a living fund” and give it to a useless vestigial cancer that needs it to take care of the imaginary man that lives in our brains and drives our body.
So go fuck yourself, Paul. If you want disaster relief, pay your fucking taxes.