Catholic Church Bill Hearing Canceled

A bill that would change the  way the Catholic churches run themselves has been pulled and there will be no hearing Wednesday.   

State Sen. Andrew McDonald and state Rep. Michael Lawlor say there are questions about whether a long standing state law that deals with religious corporations is constitutional.

Tom Gallagher, of Greenwich, has been an advocate for lay people to be given greater responsibilities within the church, and he spoke at a news conference Tuesday, the Hartford Courant reports. He said he has asked Lawlor and McDonald, co-chairmen of the legislature's judiciary committee, to put off the hearing until Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has reviewed the matter.

"At the request of the proponents who are advocating this legislation, we have decided to cancel the public hearing for tomorrow (and) table any further consideration of this bill for the duration of this session,'' the lawmakers said in a joint statement.

The archdiocese feared the bill would remove pastors and bishops from overseeing those responsibilities -- something that's historically been their job. Bishops argue this is a direct violation of the separation of church and state and said that, in a time when the state can't balance it's own budget, it has no right to tell anyone else how to balance theirs.

The bill immediately drew critics who lambasted politicians for interfering in church affairs and said the bill was unconstitutional.

Others pointed out that the state already has laws, some dating back more than 140 years, regulating several religious denominations, including the Catholic church, the Hartford Courant reports.

McDonald and Lawlor are asking Blumenthal to examine the constitutionality of those existing statutes, as well as the proposed bill.

"For reasons that are unclear, Connecticut has had generations-old laws on the books singling out particular religions and treating them differently from other religions in our statutes,'' said the statement issued by Lawlor and McDonald. "That doesn't seem right. In fact, many of our existing corporate laws dealing with particular religious groups appear to us to be unconstitutional under the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. If that is correct, any changes to that law would likely also be unconstitutional.''

Several Republican lawmakers says they're outraged by the cancellation and they'll hold their own hearing Wednesday so hundreds of Catholics expected to descend on the Capitol can have their voices heard.

Hartford Archbishop Henry Mansell and Bridgeport Bishop William Lori have described the bill as an attack on the church.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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