Sen. Witkos Calls Legislation Attacking Catholic Church “Unconstitutional”

March 10, 2009

Says chairmen of the legislature’s Judiciary Committee overstepped their bounds

State Senator Kevin Witkos, R-Canton, today said that a bill proposed by the chairmen of the legislature’s Judiciary Committee to regulate the internal affairs of the Roman Catholic Church in Connecticut is unconstitutional and a direct threat to religious freedom. According to Sen. Witkos, SB 1098, An Act Modifying Corporate Laws Relating to Certain Religious Corporations would reorganize the church’s administrative and financial structure, which is a clear violation of the Establishment Clause and Free Exercise of Religion Clause contained in our nation’s Constitution. A public hearing that was scheduled for tomorrow by the Judiciary Committee on the issue has been cancelled following two days of public outcry.

“People are angry and rightfully so,” said Sen. Witkos, who said today that he has received a number of phone calls and emails from constituents demanding that the separation of church and state be upheld by the government. “This legislation is a threat to one of the most important and most basic principles of our Constitution and to think that such a measure would even be considered is extremely troubling.”

Senate Bill 1098 proposes to radically modify the way the Catholic Church is organized and operates, replacing the control of the Bishops and pastors for that of a board of directors consisting of lay people elected from the parish. The board would have administrative and financial powers, strategic planning authority, and control of the “outreach” and community services to be provided by the church.

Sen. Witkos questioned the intentions of the co-chairs of the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Andrew McDonald of Stamford and Rep. Michael Lawlor of East Haven. “By simply putting forth this legislation they are neglecting the oath of office they swore to uphold. While I am pleased that the bill for now is off the table I will continue to fight to make sure it is never raised again,” said Sen. Witkos.

Sen. Witkos is encouraging anyone who was planning on testifying at the public hearing to attend an informational hearing on the subject tomorrow, March 11, at 12:00 pm in room 2-C of the Legislative Office Building (LOB) in Hartford. Sign up for this hearing will begin at 9:30 am in lobby of the LOB.

“While this bill targets the Roman Catholic Church, it should be noted that this type of legislation is a clear threat to all religious intuitions,” said Sen. Witkos. “We cannot and should not be allowed in any way, shape, or form to legislate how a religious organization operates. It goes against everything this great country stands for.”