EDITORIAL

The wall of church — state separation weakened in Connecticut

Posted:

Separation of church and state has been a bedrock principle of our nation’s long history.  Contrary to what many in this nation claim, this principle was designed to ensure that the state would …

Separation of church and state has been a bedrock principle of our nation’s long history.  Contrary to what many in this nation claim, this principle was designed to ensure that the state would not insert itself in the affairs of churches, not that the church should remain silent on the sidelines of the great debates of our times.  In recent months the State of Connecticut has ignored this principle in favor of inserting itself directly in the affairs of the Catholic Church. 

This past spring a bill was introduced in the Connecticut legislature that singled out Catholic parishes and would have forced them to reorganize contrary to Church law and the First Amendment.  The Catholic Church throughout the Nutmeg State reacted swiftly and promptly in response to this unconstitutional and unjust legislation. Catholics were mobilized into action by various means including Web site and parish announcements and a large rally held at the Connecticut State Capitol.  Legislation that was introduced as a way to punish the Catholic Church for her opposition to the legalization of same-sex marriage was immediately withdrawn by the sponsors.                

 This mobilization effort is now the subject of a complaint by the Connecticut Office of State Ethics that claims that the actions taken by the Catholic Church to protect herself from an unjust and unconstitutional legislative action was lobbying and that the Diocese of Bridgeport was not registered as a lobbyist in the State of Connecticut.  The state claims that as a result of this failure to register, the diocese violated state law and is subject to civil penalties. An investigation of the actions of Bishop William Lori and the Diocese of Bridgeport are currently underway as result of this offensive charge.

This outrageous claim is just another of the attempts of those who despise the Church’s proclamation of the moral truth in the public square to silence her voice.  Suggesting that exhortations from pulpits, information posted on websites, and a rally at the State Capitol are not acts of free speech but rather “lobbying” is as shocking as it is shameful.  So ridiculous is this charge that even the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, historically no friend of the Catholic Church, has filed an amicus brief in support of the diocese.

These shameful tactics by Connecticut legislators and bureaucrats are an unnecessary intrusion into the affairs of the Catholic Church.  In defending herself from hostile legislation the Church has a constitutional right to the exercise of free speech in her pulpits, on her web pages and even on the steps of the Connecticut State Capitol. The wall that separates the Catholic Church from the state is being attacked in the State of Connecticut as legislators and bureaucrats try to remove the bricks of constitutional protections.  The actions of the Connecticut Office of State Ethics is nothing more than a reprehensible attempt to muzzle the Church and subject her right to free speech to government review and regulation. 

The founding fathers choose to build a wall of separation between church and state in order to protect the free exercise of religion. This lesson of constitutional history should be reviewed by the agents of Connecticut State Government who are attempting to attack the Catholic Church.  The Church proclaims the truth both in and out of season and her prophetic voice cannot be muzzled by the shameful actions of a few cowardly Connecticut bureaucrats and legislators.