They Came For The Catholics


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.

11 Responses to They Came For The Catholics

  1. John Henry says:

    Ironically, it’s been argued (Jeffries and Ryan 2001) that the Establishment Clause was incorporated primarily because of anti-Catholicism; specifically a resistance to state funding of Catholic schools. Here, incorporation of the Establishment Clause makes this law almost certainly unconstitutional.

  2. paul zummo says:

    Ironically, it’s been argued (Jeffries and Ryan 2001) that the Establishment Clause was incorporated primarily because of anti-Catholicism;

    There’s an interesting history of the Establishment Clause and anti-Catholicism, and I’m kicking myself because I’m forgetting the name of a great book that explores that topic. It may simply be called “Separation of Church and State,” and it discusses how Jefferson’s bit of dicta was used in the late 19th and early 20th century almost primarily as a way of hurting Catholics.

    At any rate, this bit of nonsense will most likely fail, but that doesn’t mean it should not ring alarm bells for all of us. This is just the opening salvo in the new round of anti-Catholic legislation.

  3. Tito Edwards says:

    It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out. Especially with Proposition 8 out in California that may soon be rescinded, one way or another.

  4. The homeschool list was trafficing a lot on this over the weekend. One bit of information that sounded odd to me was the claim that this was just an update of a law on how Catholic parishes were to be run in Conn. which was passed back in the 50s. This was allegedly just an “update” of that law.

    Why in the world would there be a law specifically on how Catholic parishes were to be run? I’d think the Church would have to figure out how to make use of existing means of incorporation and administration and let the state know what it was doing.

    Any of you legal gents know anything about that?

  5. blackadderiv says:


    I suppose that the proposed bill is an “updating” of the prior law, in the same way that changing one’s will to disinherit one’s son in favor of one’s new girlfriend is an “updating” of one’s will.

    The law actually dates a lot farther back than the 1950s (exactly how far back I can’t say, but I suspect that the original version of the provision in question has been around since the colonial era). Apparently the way it works is that when Connecticut first set up the state’s corporate law governing religious institutions, it did so based on Congregationalist principles. At some point, they realized that this wouldn’t work for other sorts of religious denominations, so they passed special legislation relating to those churches.

  6. I certainly gathered that the proposed law tries to force an absolutely unacceptable rule-by-lay-elected-parish-board structure on Catholic parishes.

    I guess what confused me was that there was even a special set of legal structure having to do with religious institutions. I had assumed (which of course made an ass of me) that states just had one set of non-profit incorporation structures available, and that religious institutions such as Catholic diocese picked whichever of these seemed most appropriate to them. (Drawn, I guess, from reading somewhere or other about how diocese differ as to whether each parish is incorporated or the diocese as a whole is incorporated with all parishes held by it.)


    On an only semi-related note: I’d always been curious what would happen in regards to property fights and civil law if there was a full out schism in the US with two claimants to a number of diocesan sees (one bishop who had gone into schism versus his replacement appointed by Rome.)

    Would the sort of ruling cited by Donald above mean that the US would refuse to take a position on which bishop actually had control over diocesan property until the Catholic sorted it out and reached some sort of consensus?

  7. John Smith says:

    Why do you presume it is anti-Catholic in intent? Some think it was in fact pushed by Catholics upset at the lack of accountability in their churches.

  8. Gerard E. says:

    It’s on. Full scale persecution. What with this silly bill. Plus the nakedly bigoted appointment of Sibelius to HHS. For laffs, picked up the Inquirer this morn- have not received it at domicile since about Our Lord’s Birthday. Not just approving pic of Dear Leader and Crew after signing of Embryonic Stem Cell Approval Bill. But op-ed from KC Star from writer Mary Sanchez praising Sibelius and telling Catholic Church in effect to shut up and go away. Away went paper in nearest trash can.

  9. Donald R. McClarey says:

    “Some think it was in fact pushed by Catholics upset at the lack of accountability in their churches.”

    Rubbish. The anti-Catholic intent is clear. Catholics do not want any government telling them how to conduct their Church affairs. This is all payback on the gay marriage issue.

  10. […] and McDonald, the two anti-Catholic bigots behind a bill to tell the Catholic Church how to operate in Connecticut, have tucked their tails between their legs, cancelled the hearing on their bill, and their hate […]

  11. […] was behind bill SB 1098 it seems.  Creditto fellow AC writer Donald R. McClarey for digging thisup last night.  Fr. John Zuhlsdorf has additional […]

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