State Senator Michael McLachlan Voices Opposition to Push for Diocese of Bridgeport to Register As Lobbyist

May 30, 2009

Hartford, CT – State Senator Michael McLachlan (R-Danbury) today voiced his strong opposition to the recent action taken by the Office of State Ethics against the Diocese of Bridgeport. This week, the Office of State Ethics announced it is investigating whether the Diocese broke state lobbying regulations by organizing a rally and posting certain information to its website earlier this year.

The rally was organized to protest SB 1098: An Act Modifying Corporate Laws Relating to Certain Religious Corporations. This legislation was rolled out earlier this year and Senator McLachlan and many other legislators, stood in strong opposition to SB 1098. This bill, proposed by the co-chairs of the Judiciary Committee, sought to remove all financial control from the bishops and pastors of the Roman Catholic Church and install that power in a board of directors comprised of lay members elected from within the parish – a direct attack on the Church’s autonomy.

“The rally in Hartford was a direct response to the bill’s attack on the Church’s authority,” said Senator McLachlan. “We are blessed to live in the United States where we have many freedoms and protections guaranteed by our U.S. Constitution. Two such rights are freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. In organizing the rally against SB 1098, the Diocese of Bridgeport, and by extension its parishioners, did nothing more than exercise its constitutionally protected rights of speech and assembly.”

The Diocese, which is already represented in Hartford by a registered lobbyist via the Connecticut Catholic Conference, is reportedly also under investigation by the ethics commission for posting information on its website encouraging people to contact lawmakers and oppose SB 1098 and to attend the rally. The Diocese has since countered and filed a federal lawsuit against the state Office of State Ethics.

“There is no argument that safeguarding the dignity and honesty of our government is an essential task,” said Senator McLachlan. “And while I respect the concerns and authority of the Office of State Ethics, I fail to see how the office can in good conscience target the Catholic Church for simply expressing its constitutionally protected rights. I am concerned the office is going too far and will ultimately harm freedom of speech for all groups and organizations if this investigation continues.”

Going forward, Senator McLachlan said he will continue to fight for freedom of speech and has already filed a number of amendments on bills which seek to preserve the rights of the Church and other organizations to free speech.

Senator McLachlan represents the 24th District communities of Danbury, Bethel, Sherman and New Fairfield. His press secretary is Rachel Reese. She may be reached at 860.240.8865 or via email at [email protected].