State Senator Michael McLachlan Lends Voice to Opposition of SB 1098

March 11, 2009

Calls Bill a Blatant Attack on Constitutional Protection of Separation of Church & State

Hartford, CT – State Senator Michael McLachlan once again lent his voice in strong opposition to SB 1098: An Act Modifying Corporate Laws Relating to Certain Religious Corporations calling it a flagrant and unjustified attack on the Church’s constitutionally protected autonomy.

The bill was introduced by the co-chairs of the Judiciary Committee, State Senator Andrew McDonald (D-Stamford) and State Representative Michael Lawlor (D – East Haven). The bill would remove all financial control from clergy of the Roman Catholic Church and install it in a board of directors comprised of lay members elected from within the parish. The bill would also expand the Attorney General’s authority to investigate church finances.

The co-chairs of the Judiciary Committee, Senator McDonald and Representative Lawlor, claimed the bill was introduced after hearing from constituents concerned over the recent financial misconduct of two pastors from Darien and Greenwich.

“While I believe firmly in the importance of tracking and prosecuting criminal action, of any kind, this bill has an ulterior motive to undermine the authority of the Catholic Church,” said Senator McLachlan. “We have a criminal justice system in place to prosecute criminal action that works. The bad actions of a few do not justify this out-and-out assault on religious freedom.”

“This bill should never have been raised, let alone given a public hearing. It not only attempts to take away the autonomy of the Church but it also, in effect, would have altered the traditional structure of the Church itself,” said Senator McLachlan. “As a practicing Catholic, this is a particularly troubling legislative initiative. SB 1098 opened the door to attacks on my religion, but all religious traditions enjoying freedom under the U.S. Constitution.”

After tremendous opposition, the Judiciary Committee canceled Wednesday’s scheduled public hearing and tabled the bill. However, House and Senate Republicans moved forward with an informational hearing at the Legislative Office Building on Wednesday allowing members of the clergy and the public to voice their opinions and gather information.

“I am encouraged so many Catholics, and those of other religions, made the trip to Hartford to speak their minds on this controversial bill,” said Senator McLachlan. “I am also hopeful the Majority Democrats turn their attention from attacking the Church to other matters of critical importance, like our growing budget deficit.”