House approves federal disaster aid for houses of worship

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The House has overwhelmingly approved a bill to allow houses of worship damaged by Superstorm Sandy to receive federal disaster aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The measure, which passed by a 354-72 vote Wednesday, adds houses of worship to the government's list of private nonprofit organizations eligible for aid. Critics said the measure violates the constitutional separation of church and state.

Sandy roared up the East Coast and pounded several states in late October, especially New York and New Jersey. The storm is blamed for 140 deaths and billions of dollars in residential and business property damage. Bill supporters say many houses of worship damaged in the storm continued to serve their stricken communities with help such as shelter and food.

The bill now goes to the Senate.