Anti-Catholic bigots are busily at work in the Connecticut state legislature. Raised Bill 1098 would effectively place any corporation connected with the Roman Catholic Church in Connecticut under lay control. The sponsors of the bill, Representative Mike Lawlor, ironically a law professor, and State Senator Andrew J. McDonald, a lawyer, generously allow the local bishop or archbishop to serve on such a board of directors but without a vote.
This piece of legislative hate directed towards the Catholic Church is breathtakingly unconstitutional. Under the incorporation doctrine the First Amendment of the US Constitution applies to the deeds and misdeeds of the Connecticut legislature. For the benefit of any member of the Connecticut legislature who may happen to read this, here is the text of the First Amendment:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. ”
To simplify things for the legislators, this means that they have as much business trying to control how the Catholic Church runs its internal affairs as they do attempting to legislate whether God granted the keys of the Kingdom to Saint Peter. In other words, none.
I assume that there are doubtless lawyers, in addition to the bill sponsors, in the Connecticut legislature and for their benefit I will cite the case of Kedroff v. Saint Nicholas Cathedral, 344 US 94 (1952) in which the US Supreme Courth held that the State of New York could not determine through legislation which faction of the Russian Orthodox Church could control a cathedral:
“Ours is a government which, by the “law of its being,” allows no statute, state or national, that prohibits the free exercise of religion. There are occasions when civil courts must draw lines between the responsibilities of church and state for the disposition or use of property. Even in those cases when the property right follows as an incident from decisions of the church custom or law on ecclesiastical issues, the church rule controls. This, under our Constitution, necessarily follows in order that there may be free exercise of religion.”
Leaving aside the whole issue of the First Amendment, the proposed act also runs afoul of the equal protection guarantees of the Constitution in that it singles out the Roman Catholic Church alone for application of this statute. This is completely impermissible as a matter of constitutional law.
This particular piece of legislative stupidity is all about gay marriage. The two sponsors are both openly gay, and ardently in favor of gay marriage, and this travesty is attempted payback for the role of the Catholic Church in Connecticut in fighting against gay marriage. This bill will never pass, but the sponsors are playing a very dangerous game. Religious peace as this country has known is a rare and precious thing in the history of humanity. Attempts to fan the flames of religious bigotry for political gamesmanship should be condemned by every American.