FREE SPEECH IN CONNECTICUT:
CATHOLICS NEED NOT APPLY
Catholic League president Bill Donohue addresses the state of free speech for Catholics in Connecticut:
Three months ago, two lawmakers from Connecticut sought a state takeover of the governing structure of the Catholic Church. This gambit, which we properly labeled a “fascist stunt,” lost. The reason it lost is because of the courageous reaction of Catholics, led by their bishops, and organizations like the Catholic League. Among the steps taken to thwart this unconstitutional abridgement of religious liberty was a rally at the state Capitol.
In retaliation, some state officials are now seeking to penalize the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport, led by Bishop William E. Lori. They have accused the Bridgeport Diocese of breaking the state’s lobbying laws. On May 29, Bishop Lori filed suit seeking an injunction to stop the punitive measures from being implemented.
What is at stake is practically every liberty enshrined in the First Amendment: freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, religious liberty and the provision guaranteeing separation of church and state. First the tyrants sought to take control of the Catholic Church, and now their lackeys are trying to muzzle the free speech of Catholics. Had this been reversed—had the bishops sought to take command of the legislative functions of the state of Connecticut and then proceeded to get a gag order placed on lawmakers—everyone who is now silent would be apoplectic.
Just last month, there was a rally in Hartford demanding universal health care. According to Courant.com, approximately 140 “clergy and religious folks marched to the state Capitol to ask to talk. They wore clerical collars, suit coats and hijabs, and chanted and carried signs that said, ‘Muslims for Health Care,’ and ‘Health Care for All.’” This rally occasioned no threats by state officials of any kind.
Contact Carol Carson, the person who is behind this anti-Catholic effort and is being sued by the Diocese of Bridgeport: Carol.firstname.lastname@example.org
Here is Bishop Lori's statement as posted on his blog
This is the “Constitution State”??
It is with a great degree of shock and dismay that I must share with you a recent action that the State of Connecticut – the so-called “Constitution State” – has initiated with respect to our Diocese.
As you will recall, following the surprise introduction of Bill 1098, which singled out Catholic parishes and would have forced them to reorganize contrary to Church law and the First Amendment, our Diocese responded in the most natural, spontaneous, and, frankly, American, of ways:
We alerted our membership – in person and through our website;
We encouraged them to exercise their free speech by contacting their elected representatives; and
We organized a rally at the State Capitol in Hartford.
As a result, we helped highlight the unconstitutional nature of this proposal such that the bill was withdrawn even before its first scheduled public hearing. It was an outstanding demonstration of democracy-in-action and a great civics lesson for our children. Our Founding Fathers would have been proud.
Last week, however, we were informed that, in the view of an examiner at the Connecticut Office of State Ethics, this was not a textbook case of citizen democracy and free speech – it actually constituted “lobbying”!
Accordingly, the examiner alleges that we failed to register as a lobbyist, a process that would subject the Diocese to intrusive oversight and regulation by the State. As such, the Diocese supposedly violated State law and is potentially subject to civil penalties.
Once again, we should be outraged.
“Lobbying”? Exhortations from the pulpit, information posted to the world wide web, a rally in the middle of the day on the State’s most public piece of property? This cannot possibly be what our Legislature had in mind when it enacted lobbying laws to bring more transparency and oversight to a legislative process that has been corrupted by special interests and backroom deals.
First Amendment Response
Let’s be clear: we violated no law. We acted in response to an outrageous proposal that was imminently pending review and threatened to impose dramatic and blatantly unconstitutional requirements on our Church.
Unfortunately, this new action cannot be seen as anything other than an attempt to muzzle the Church and subject our right of free speech to government review and regulation. This government action tramples on the First Amendment freedoms of speech, assembly, and religion, and should shock the conscience of all citizens of the Constitution State.
We have now been left with no choice but to file a civil rights lawsuit in Federal Court against State of Connecticut officials seeking relief from this shocking government action. A copy of the lawsuit and more information is posted now on our website.
As a Bishop, I will take every measure possible to defend our faith and our Church from attempts to silence us – and our individual parishes could be targeted next.
Thank you to the following for spreading the news about this outrageous action of the Office of State Ethics!
Bill Donohue and the Catholic League: click here
The Editorial Board of the Connecticut Post: click here