Monday, March 16, 2009

"Death With Dignity" is Dead?

The assisted suicide bill from co-chairs Senator McDonald and Representative Lawlor, scheduled for a public hearing before the Judiciary Committee on March 20th, appears to be dead for this session. The reason for pulling SB1138 off the agenda is reported to be "clerical error."

I feel bad for the clerk and staff of the Judiciary Committee.

Last week the committee staff got hammered trying to process thousands of emails and phone calls from outraged Catholics and First Amendment rights advocates when their bosses - the co-chairs - began a frontal assault on the Catholic Church. This week the co-chairs decided to take on the right-to-life advocates and the calls and emails started flowing into the Capitol again.

Can someone in the Connecticut Democratic Party tell Senator McDonald and Representative Lawlor that we have a budget crisis and we need to focus on balancing the budget - not waste tremendous state resources on personal vendettas?

If you see a big bottle of Irish Cream on the counter in the Judiciary Committee I didn't deliver it (violates the volumes of rules here) but the staff sure deserves an Irish Coffee for St. Patrick's Day!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Solution in Search of a Problem?

This day at the Capitol is memorable for this senator and I hear for many veteran Capitol watchers – some who’ve been here over sixty years! I’ve met people of faith from a high school senior girl to a WWII veteran in his mid-eighties, all of whom had a glow on their faces. The experience today was of faithful embracing our democracy and celebrating the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Thousands of Catholics and defenders of religious freedom arrived at the Capitol this morning and the atrium of the Legislative Office Building was buzzing with excitement. The group moved to the Capitol lawn for a rally with prayers, song and speeches from Catholic Church leaders. The bishops of Connecticut offered their prayers and wisdom followed by religious freedoms history lessons Supreme Knight Carl Anderson of the Knights of Columbus and Monsignor Stephen DiGiovanni of Saint John the Evangelist Parish in Stamford.

The history lessons reminded us of the persecution of Catholics in our state and how religious freedoms developed here slowly. Connecticut adopted existing religious corporate governance laws to reverse the inequality afforded the Catholic faith.

I still get chills thinking about thousands of faithful singing America the Beautiful and God Bless America! I think we sort of floated a few feet above the Capitol lawn at the conclusion of the rally.

Off to the Legislative Republicans’ Informational Forum (hastily arranged after the Judiciary Committee co-chairs cancelled the real public hearing on SB1098) where expert witnesses opened the discussion with fascinating descriptions of SB1098 being “a solution in search of a problem.” Attorney Michael Shea, an expert on Connecticut’s existing religious corporation statutes, clearly stated the laws governing the Connecticut Roman Catholic Church and other denominations are “constitutional precisely because they respect, and do not interfere with, the internal governance structures of the churches to which they apply.” Exactly.

Senator John McKinney suggested Attorney General Blumenthal could avoid wasting his enormous legal resources on a requested opinion and just read Attorney Shea’s brief. As you read earlier in this blog, Blumenthal is questioning the constitutionality of existing state statutes in effect for fifty to one-hundred-forty-three years! Hopefully, A.G. Blumenthal will let his 300 lawyers work on something else and defer to an expert here – just read the Shea brief. Case closed!

I am headed back to the forum where people across the great state of Connecticut are sharing their wisdom about religious freedoms. Some have said this is a gray day at the Capitol. On the contrary, I think the faithful have shed bright light on the darkness brought on by Senator McDonald and Representative Lawlor.

Speaker (Fire Chief) Donovan Steps Into the Democrats' Church Fire

"It's not a partisan issue," Speaker Chris Donovan (D-Meriden) said yesterday about the Democratic co-chairs of the Judiciary Committee's attack on religious freedoms! Donovan asked Republicans to avoid pouring gasoline on a volatile political issue.

So Donovan is the Democratic Party's fire chief now. He thinks Republican lawmakers should not host an informal hearing to allow Catholics to speak their mind now that the Democrats started this major conflaguration and abruptly cancelled a formal hearing on SB1098.

Donovan responded to news the Catholics are still rallying at the Capitol today by saying, "we join them in opposing this bill..." Oh really, Fire Chief Donovan, where was your Speaker's fire hose when this fire was kindling in the back room of the Judiciary Committee? Representative Lawlor is your appointment as co-chair of the committee and your responsibility.

Fire Chief Donovan's comments raises another big question about the Democrats' out-of-control legislative leadership this session. Where is Senate President Donald Williams? He appointed Senator McDonald (the Democrats' apparent leader on SB1098) the other Democratic co-chair of Judiciary. Does this mean Williams is out of touch with his appointee's incendiary politics?

I am hopeful the Democratic majority in the legislature sees this as a turning point to focus on the economic crisis we face in Connecticut. Stop fighting the Catholic Church and proposing the closure of university campuses and get to work on the real problem at hand - we have a state budget meltdown and we need real leadership to keep the ship of state sailing through this economic storm.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tradition, Family & Property

The American Society for Defense of Tradition, Family & Property tells us the real threat of SB1098.

Catholic Rally at the Capitol on Wednesday!

Amazing is the only way to describe the turn of events here at the State Capitol since the Democrat co-chairs of the Judiciary Committee pulled the pin on a grenade and threw it right into the Catholic Church! Apparently, Senator McDonald and Representative Lawlor underestimated the outrage from Catholics on their attack of the Church and the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

As Republican legislators and I stood in a press conference at Noon today criticizing their attack on the Church and religious freedoms in Connecticut, McDonald and Lawlor cancelled the Judiciary Committee meeting public hearing scheduled for tomorrow. They issued a statement, "… it would serve no useful purpose to have a conversation about changing the laws that govern existing Roman Catholic corporations until we know if any of these existing laws are constitutional."

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal was waiting outside the Republican press conference to chime in on the constitutional question. The Judiciary co-chairs asked for his opinion and promised to host a forum of legal scholars and all religious denominations to discuss the current law after the current legislative session. Now they want the Catholic Church to defend the laws on the books since 1866!

Ironically, McDonald and Lawlor requested the “proponents” of the bill (they forget this is their initiative) to meet with church leaders privately “to see if they can come to a resolution on their own.” Imagine actually having conversation before proposing legislation? Had the co-chairs done their homework they would have found their proposal is widely unpopular, clearly unconstitutional and a clear attack on the Roman Catholic Church of Connecticut.

Catholic faithful from across Connecticut are still travelling to Hartford on Wednesday for a rally at Noon. Parishes were mobilized over the weekend to bring thousands of outraged Catholics to the public hearing on SB1098 to send a message to Senator McDonald and Representative Lawlor - Stop interfering with the Catholic Church's First Amendment rights!

This fight is not over. Catholics should call their legislators to let them know they oppose SB1098 and the misguided judgment of Senator McDonald and Representative Lawlor to interfere in the Catholic Church's business.

You may locate your Senator and Representative at the following address:

Stay tuned for reports of the Catholic rally at the Capitol.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Judiciary Committee Run Into a Ditch?

The Judiciary Committee of the Connecticut General Assembly, chaired by Senator Andrew McDonald and Representative Michael Lawlor, seems to have run off into a ditch this session.

First we have an over-reaching attempt to codify the Connecticut Supreme Court's Kerrigan decision legalizing gay marriage - Senate Bill 899 - and now we have a bizarre attack of First Amendment rights against the Roman Catholic Church in Connecticut - Senate Bill 1098.

I'm going to focus on Senate Bill 1098 -- "An Act Modifying Corporate Laws Relating to Certain Religious Institutions." The stated purpose of this bill is "to revise the corporate governance provisions applicable to the Roman Catholic Church and provide for the investigation of the misappropriation of funds by religious corporations." The real purpose of this bill is payback to the bishops and pastors of the Roman Catholic Church in Connecticut for opposing gay marriage.

Unfortunately, I think some well-intentioned, unhappy Catholics from Darien are being used as pawns by Senator McDonald and Representative Lawlor in a thinly-veiled attack on the Church.

This legislation seeks to eliminate bishops and pastors from all financial decisions of the Church. Currently, local parish corporations are governed by the bishop, diocesan administrator, pastor and two lay trustees as required in Canon Law. Senate Bill 1098 will change this to an elected board of directors of seven to thirteen lay members and will exclude the bishop and pastor. The pastor of the parish corporation will report to the board of directors.

This proposal turns the Catholic Church of Connecticut into a congregational church structure. The proponents claim this is necessary because of financial impropriety of two pastors from Darien and Greenwich in the past several years. McDonald and Lawlor claim the parishioners approached them for assistance making changes to the Catholic Church to hold the bishops accountable for their decisions.

Some would say this is an incredibly bold move by McDonald and Lawlor but the constitutional scholars say their proposal is a clear attack on the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Connecticut Catholics are outraged by the proposal and are likely to fill the halls of the State Capitol and the Legislative Office Building on Wednesday, March 11th for the Judiciary Committee's public hearing on the bill.

I suspect this public hearing will be more like a zoo with the tone of an inquisition. Chances are the topics for discussion on Wednesday will go far beyond the bill proposed. I fear that we'll be hearing all kinds of attacks on the bishops, pastors and priests of the Catholic Church.

I pray fervently that we can dispense with this brutal attack on the Roman Catholic Church very quickly. Catholics don't deserve this attack and the proponents of this bill will hopefully hear this message loud and clear.

You can read about S.B. 1098 here:

You can reach members of the Judiciary Committee here: