Three Texas churches hit by hurricane Harvey have asked a judge to force FEMA to change its policy on religious organizations.
Lawyers for the churches were encouraged by Tuesday's proceedings and are now awaiting the judge's decision.
“The government can't leave its policy in place and continue discriminating against the churches while it decides what it's going to do next without giving a date, and the court tended to agree at least on the issue and denied a motion to stay,” says Becket Law attorney Diana Verm.
Verm says the churches want the federal agency to waive its stance that religious groups don't qualify for FEMA funds because they might try to convert people looking for help.
“The court seemed to understand the serious situation the churches are in,” she says. “The judge asked good questions about the policy and asked good questions about the disciminatory nature of the policy.
The churches claim FEMA's position violates the Constitution.
“If you have religious activies or if you were established for a religious purpose, you're not eligible, and that's just plain discrimination,” she says. “The Supreme Court has ruled on that recently, saying it is unconstitutional and violates the free exercise