Hurricane damaged Houses of Worship denied grant from FEMA: News Round Up

In the news this week: Houses of worship seeking FEMA grants face constitutional barrier, first Hindu American Congresswoman takes oath on Bhagavad Gita, and other stories.

Hurricane Sandy flooded and battered St. George Malankara Orthodox Church of India  in New Dorp, Staten Island, ruining its basement, windows and doors. Yet, when its vicar contacted the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to ask for a grant to help with the estimated $150,000 rebuilding cost, he said he got a clear answer: No. 

A broad range of private nonprofit organizations qualify for federal disaster assistance grants, including zoos, museums, performing arts centers and libraries. Houses of worship, however, are not on the list, even though in recent years the federal government has ruled that some religiously affiliated institutions like schools and hospitals can get grants. The New York Times

Tulsi Gabbard from Hawaii has created history by not only becoming the first Hindu ever to be sworn in as a member of the US House of Representatives, but also being the first ever US lawmaker to have taken oath of office on the sacred Bhagavad Gita. Tulsi, 31, was administered the oath of office by John Boehner, Speaker of the House of Representatives.

"I chose to take the oath of office with my personal copy of the Bhagavad Gita because its teachings have inspired me to strive to be a servant-leader, dedicating my life in the service of others and to my country," Gabbard said after the swearing in ceremony yesterday. The Indian Express

At a time when the ideals of compromise and collegiality seem like a distant dream in the nation’s capital, an unusually diverse coalition of religious leaders is asking Americans to pray for civility.

“Through daily prayer, we are calling on the ‘better angels of our nature’ needed to sustain our nation and solve problems,” said the Rev. Peg Chemberlin, immediate past president of the National Council of Churches and one of the faith leaders taking part in “18 days of Prayer for the Nation.”

Prayers begin Thursday (Jan. 3), the first day of the new Congress, and end on Jan. 21, the day of President Obama’s second inauguration. Religion News Service

The Pakistani schoolgirl activist, Malala Yousafzai, 15, who was shot in the head by the Taliban has been discharged from a Birmingham hospital as an inpatient.

She was being treated at Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEHB) after being transferred following the attack in October. Yousafzai will continue rehabilitation at her family's temporary West Midlands home.

The Taliban said it shot Malala, a campaigner for girls' education, for "promoting secularism". The shooting, in a school bus, sparked domestic and international outrage. BBC News