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ADL backs off opposition to FEMA aid for Sandy-damaged houses of worship

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WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Anti-Defamation League will not oppose federal assistance to houses of worship damaged in superstorm Sandy.

Legislation authorizing such assistance passed last week in the U.S. House of Representatives with a strong bipartisan majority, and with the backing of an array of Jewish groups that included the American Jewish Committee, which usually opposes state funding for religious bodies.

The measure is now headed to the Senate, where it also has bipartisan support.

The ADL had been the single major Jewish group opposed, but in a statement to JTA on Wednesday said it would not oppose the legislation. The group emphasized that its decision in this case was an exception.

"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," ADL said.

"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."

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