Connecticut is voting this Wednesday on explicitly anti-Catholic legislation to incorporate Catholic parishes. News story is here: http://www.newstimes.com/ci_11868032
If passed, this legislation will mandate that the governance of all Catholic churches be done by a third party committee and the Bishops and parish priests will have no say. This is in response to a case of gross financial wrongdoing by a parish priest in Darien, CT (who is now serving three years in prison.)
Statement of Purpose:
To revise the corporate governance provisions applicable to the Roman Catholic Church and provide for the investigation of the misappropriation of funds by religious corporations.
This legislation will affect only the Roman Catholic Church — no other church.
The bill has a hearing on March 11 in the Joint Comm. on Judiciary.
Here is the link to the committee members: http://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/menu/MemberList.asp?comm_code=JUD&doc_type=
Here is the snail mail:
Joint Committee on Judiciary
Room 2500, Legislative Office Building
Hartford, CT 06106
R.B. 1098 (Raised House Bill 1098)
Sponsors of CT R.B. 1098
Sen. Andrew McDonald phone: 1-800-842-1420; email: McDonald@senatedems.ct.gov
Representative Lawlor; phone: 1-800-842-8267; email: MLawlor99@juno.com
Please pray for a good outcome here, and if you feel so inclined, write to the sponsors of the bill.
Actually there were two separate investigations into the illegal appropriation of funds, both exceeding $1 million. In one there was a conviction. In the other, the case is pending investigation.
A few questions.
Was any other church implicated in the wrongdoing? That is to say, is the law taking a minimally intrusive approach to resolving the problem? I can’t see penalizing the Catholic Church because The Fifth Avenue Wiccan Circle did something wrong, and I can’t see penalizing the Fifth Avenue Wiccan Circle because the Catholic Church did something wrong. If multiple groups were involved, then they must all be dealt with equally.
Was the church as a whole cooperative with the law concerning the investigations, or were they doing the same thing they did when the allegations of child abuse started there, and giving the law the runaround? If the former, this is too heavy-handed. If the later, it may be required in order to enforce the state’s anti-embezzlement laws.
I would love it if the church would be treated by the law the same as say the U.S. Chess Federation, Mensa, or The Big Apple Knitting Guild. No special laws for them. No special laws against them. Just an organization doing their thing.
In answer to your question, two words:
It is perfectly in compliance with the Constitution. There is a right to freedom of religion, but a state can, and has, demanded a church disband (note the one I told you about a while ago in Pennsylvania) if they are in violation of the law. If this weren’t the case, I could start a religion where services include sacrificing small children and mugging old ladies. This law is a lesser imposition than what that the state is empowered to do.
It’s not. There is a good discussion at Prawfsblawg. http://prawfsblawg.blogs.com/prawfsblawg/2009/03/law-profs-get-results-connecticut-bill-tabled-for-now.html
It’s not in compliance with the Constitution because among other things it specifically singles out one denomination over all others. If this were a law of general application then there’d be a chance that it would be Constitutional, but it’s not.
Furthermore it is an attempt to regulate something that is a core belief of the Church (i.e. the authority of the Bishop). Courts cannot rule on a theological matter.
I just asked a lawyer about this yesterday (I do tech support for law firms and we were talking while waiting for a file to download). He said it is fine because it doesn’t impinge on any religious matters. That is to say, the law can’t insist Catholics eat meat on Fridays or wash of ashes on Ash Wednesday–that would violate freedom of religion. It can do what it must to enforce compliance with civil law. The issue came up previously when the courts forcibly subpoenaed documents regarding priests being reassigned during the sex abuse scandal, and the ruling was against the church then.
Kit *is* an attorney, and one problem is that it reduces a Bishop to a non-voting member of his own church.
Also, I’m amused by the idea that a corporate-type or government-run entity is always totally above-board with its finances. Because as we well know, no one ever embezzled from the government or from a business.
Of course embezzlement is everywhere. That’s why laws like S.O. were put in place.
Is the issue discrimination? If so, then it’s simple. Apply the law to all groups. If it’s freedom of religion, that opens a delicious can of worms. For example, I could start a religion that worships wool, and say it’s a violation of that religion to pay any taxes, because that would cut into yarn money.
The bill is tabled for now. It should be interesting to see what the courts decide.