The separation of church and state is one of the biggest myths out there. There is no separation of church and state clause in our Constitution, although people do have a right to freedom of religion. The separation of church and state argument comes from a letter written by Thomas Jefferson, and was noted by Jefferson as a reassurance that the state would not interfere with any church. That’s basically what the First Amendment and the Establishment Clause say: that the government cannot meddle with anyone’s religious freedoms or with the structure of a religious organization.
Well, I guess in Connecticut, that constitutional right no longer matters, because the (Democrat-controlled) Judiciary Committee has introduced a bill giving the state the right to organize Catholic parishes and diocese according to state requirements:
The Lawlor-and-McDonald-controlled Judiciary Committee has introduced Raised Bill 1098, a bill aimed specifically at the Catholic Church, which would remove the authority of the bishop and pastor over individual parishes and put a board of laymen in their place. You can read Rep. Lawlor’s defense of this bill, Bridgeport Bishop William Lori’s response and more here.
We need as big a turnout as possible for the public hearing on Wednesday, especially from non-Catholics. As Ben Franklin told the Founders while they were signing the Declaration of Independence, “either we hang together or we will all hang separately.” Legislators need to understand that this bill is an attack on everyone’s religious liberty.
If the legislature can replace a bishop with a board of laymen in the Catholic Church, they can just as easily replace the governing lay structure of Congregationalist or Baptist churches with someone set up as a bishop. In fact, it was resistance to such government interference in the internal life of the church that gave birth to several of our most historic denominations. Thanks to this awful bill, our generation must now rise up to defend those hard-fought victories for religious liberty that were won for us by our ancestors.
This should send a chill down your spine, Catholic or not. What this will do is basically take away the existing organization of the Catholic church, and replace it with a governing board selected by the state. The pastors, bishops, and archbishops in Connecticut would see all of their authority in the church taken away. The archbishop or bishop would have a seat on the board, but would have no right to vote. This bill is directed only at the Catholic church.
American Papist has the defense of this despicable bill from Mike Lawlor himself:
… the current state statutes governing Roman Catholic corporations … were enacted in 1955. SB 1098 is a proposal to make changes in that law, which was suggested by parishioners who were the victims of theft of their funds in several parishes, and these parishioners feel that the state’s existing Roman Catholic Corporate laws prevented them from dealing with the misuse and theft of funds.
I agree with you that the whole notion of having a statute governing the church seems like an intrusion on the separation of church and state, but the current law does that already. Perhaps we should repeal the whole thing, but if we are going to have a corporate law of this type, it probably should make sure there cannot be deception of parishioners.
Here’s the problem with that reasoning. Theft and fraud are already against the law. If a parishioner believes that theft and/or fraud has taken place, then they can take legal action. If they feel they’ve been deceived, then obviously there’s no legal action they can take — there’s no law against lying or deception, even if it’s not very nice to lie to or deceive someone. A parishioner can, though, stop donating money to that particular parish. They can attend another parish. Or they could cease attendance of Catholic churches altogether. No one is required to donate money to their church, nor are they required to attend a particular church. The government, however, does require people to donate their money, and what recourse does an unhappy citizen have when they feel their money is being mishandled?
The Bridgeport Diocese has responded to these accusations and to this bill. They also, interestingly enough, noted that the state of Connecticut has racked up a $1.5 billion deficit, and therefore probably has no right to try to manage the finances of an organzation whose finances are already quite sound.
This past Thursday, March 5, the Judiciary Committee of the Connecticut State Legislature, which is chaired by Sen. Andrew McDonald of Stamford and Rep. Michael Lawlor of East Haven, introduced a bill that directly attacks the Roman Catholic Church and our Faith.
This bill violates the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. It forces a radical reorganization of the legal, financial, and administrative structure of our parishes. This is contrary to the Apostolic nature of the Catholic Church because it disconnects parishes from their Pastors and their Bishop. Parishes would be run by boards from which Pastors and the Bishop would be effectively excluded.
This bill, moreover, is a thinly-veiled attempt to silence the Catholic Church on the important issues of the day, such as same-sex marriage.
The State has no right to interfere in the internal affairs and structure of the Catholic Church. This bill is directed only at the Catholic Church but could someday be forced on other denominations. The State has no business controlling religion.
The Pastors of our Diocese are doing an exemplary job of sound stewardship and financial accountability, in full cooperation with their parishioners.
For the State Legislature — which has not reversed a $1 billion deficit in this fiscal year — to try to manage the Catholic Church makes no sense. The Catholic Church not only lives within her means but stretches her resources to provide more social, charitable, and educational services than any other private institution in the State. This bill threatens those services at a time when the State is cutting services. The Catholic Church is needed now more than ever.
We reject this irrational, unlawful, and bigoted bill that jeopardizes the religious liberty of our Church.
Catholic or not, all Americans should be outraged over this. This bill is a gross overreach of power, not to mention a disgusting infringement on Connecticut citizens’ constitutional religious liberties. The government has no right whatsoever to regulate the structure of any religious organization.
Please call Senator McDonald and Representative Lawlor, and let them know that what they are doing is unacceptable. Again, whether or not you are a Catholic or a citizen of Connecticut is irrelevant. All Americans have the right to freedom of religion, and an infringment on that right anywhere can affect all of us. This is an ugly step towards fascism, and we cannot stand for it.
Senator Andrew McDonald:
(800) 842-1420; (203) 348-7439
Representative Michael Lawlor:
(800) 842-8267; (203) 469-9725
Hat Tip: Hot Air