Republicans argue in defense of hierarchical denominations

It’s not always conservatives who push bills to regulate church polity. In Virginia, Texas and Oklahoma that has been the case. But in Connecticut the shoe is on the other foot. The Catholic Church isn’t happy.

From the “most read” on Tuesday at the Connecticut Post:

The Democratic co-chairmen of the General Assembly’s Judiciary Committee on Tuesday abruptly killed a controversial bill that would give Catholic parishioners more power on their local church boards. Just before noon, the lawmakers canceled Wednesday’s public hearing on the controversial change to the state law on the way Roman Catholic churches are run. They said the bill is dead for this year.

Sen. Andrew J. McDonald, D-Stamford, and Rep. Michael P. Lawlor, D-East Haven, co-chairmen of the Judiciary Committee, withdrew the proposal from a public-hearing list in response to a request by two reform-minded Catholics: Tom Gallagher, of Greenwich, and Paul Lakeland, director of the Center for Catholic Studies at Fairfield University. Gallagher and Lakeland, who support the change in corporation law, held a morning news conference in the Capitol complex Tuesday in which they said today’s church members deserve more voting power on the 87 local Bridgeport Diocese boards, which are dominated by the bishop.

House Minority Leader Lawrence F. Cafero Jr., R-Norwalk, and Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield, said they would welcome busloads of Catholics from throughout the state and host an afternoon-long hearing on the issue. “What are we going to tell them?” Cafero quipped during the news conference. “Game called on account of rain?”

Read it all.

Christian Web News has more in a story written before the bill was declared dead by its sponsors:

In a statement read at Fairfield County Masses, Bridgeport Bishop William E. Lori delivered a harsh rebuke to the proposal, charging it “directly attacks the Roman Catholic Church and our faith” and was a “thinly-veiled attempt to silence the Catholic Church on the important issues of the day, such as same-sex marriage.”

In rejecting the proposed law, Lori said “this irrational, unlawful and bigoted bill jeopardizes the religious liberty of our church.”

But McDonald said the bill did no such thing. He emphasized that any parish wishing to could leave its affairs under diocesan control. The measure also leaves to bishops and priests “matters pertaining exclusively to religious tenets and practices.”

Lori said, “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 their pastors and the bishops would effectively be excluded.”

In his statement, Lori continued: “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 would someday be forced on other denominations. The state has no business controlling religion.”

The Catholic and Episcopal churches have come out against a 2009 Oklahoma bill that would limit how denominations could organize. It did not, however, join as a friend of the court on the side of the Diocese of Virginia in the 57-9 case as did many other denominations, some not affected by 57-9, but opposed to state regulation of religion.

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