Saturday, May 30, 2009

Government Attacking Catholic Church Again?

I am alarmed to hear the Diocese of Bridgeport was forced to file a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court to protect their First Amendment rights due to actions by the Office of State Ethics. It seems ironic that the Roman Catholic Church and many other faith communities in Connecticut were fighting S.B. 1098 - a misguided bill that was clearly a violation of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution – and are now subject to lobbying laws in Connecticut.

I understand the lobbying laws in Connecticut are designed to carefully monitor professional lobbying activities – not the casual visitor to the State Capitol. Many organizations visit the Capitol to express their views on legislation but have no registered lobbyists. Is the Office of State Ethics suggesting organizers of every rally at the Capitol should register as a lobbyist?

I don’t see the connection of applying restrictions to a church organization using a website to communicate with their members and facilitate contacting their legislators. Once again, I see this activity as a First Amendment right.

I have grave concerns that our ethics statutes may be going too far in direct violation of the First Amendment. I have filed amendments on several bills at the Capitol to address these concerns. Hopefully, fellow legislators will agree that we must preserve church organizations' First Amendment rights and support changes to the lobbying laws.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Danbury Civil War Memorial

Memorial Day in Danbury long before the parade each monument is visited by a color guard, rifle squad and dignitaries for a wreath-laying ceremony. Twelve locations around the city. I wish everyone could experience this early morning tribute.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Memorial Day

Memorial Day is a special time for me. I've always enjoyed the ceremonies, parades and planting flowers at the cemetery. In 2004 I had the pleasure of participating in the dedication of the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. This was a volunteer opportunity I'll never forget as I escorted the Medal of Honor recipients to the stage with the President.

This morning was another special Memorial Day experience as I was invited to participate in the New Fairfield Veterans' ceremony. My assignment was to read perhaps one of the greatest speeches ever delivered - Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.

Gettysburg Address

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met here on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of it as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But in a larger sense we can not dedicate - we can not consecrate - we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled, here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but can never forget what they did here.

It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they have, thus far, so nobly carried on. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom; and that this government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Death Penalty or Deficit Crisis?

The time at the State Capitol is 12:45 AM Friday morning - about thirteen hours after we convened the Senate Session for Thursday. We managed to address several bills on consent earlier today and at 5:30 PM the Democratic majority leadership called H.B. 6578 - AN ACT CONCERNING THE PENALTY FOR A CAPITAL FELONY!

I am still trying to understand why Senator Williams and Senator Looney decided to spend so much of our precious time remaining in the legislative session debating a bill that is highly likely to face a veto from Governor Rell. In fact, the Governor has publicly stated she supports the death penalty - all but promising a veto. The Democrats don't have the votes to override a veto as many of their members support the death penalty.

The debate is entering the eighth hour and everyone has not spoken. The Senate Republicans have just called the first of twenty-two amendments filed on this bill. If each amendment is called and just thirty minutes is afforded for each one we will see the sunrise over the Capitol and still be debating a bill that is destined for death.

I have struggled with the debate of repealing the death penalty in the Judiciary Committee and the Senate floor. Proponents of repealing the death penalty offered compelling arguments - many questioning the costs of executing a murderer in Connecticut and the ability of the criminal justice system to convict a murderer beyond a reasonable doubt. I will not support repealing the death penalty.

Dr. William Petit and his sister, Johanna Chapman, have shared their views on the death penalty and convinced me. Dr. Petit's wife, Jennifer and daughters, Michaela and Hayley were murdered in a home invasion - a gruesome crime where Dr. Petit escaped the home with his life. Two recent parolees were charged the crimes after police witnessed them leaving the home.

William Petit and Johanna Chapman are carrying the message of their tragedy to the Connecticut General Assembly. Dr. Petit's and Ms. Chapman's testimony to the Judiciary Committee on March 4, 2009 was brave. He said, "If you allow murderers to live you are giving them more regard, more value than three women who never hurt a soul and played by all of society's rules for their short lives. My family got the death penalty and you want to give murderers life - that is NOT JUSTICE. Any penalty less than death for murder is unjust and trivialize the victim and the victim's family. It is immoral and unjust to all of us in our society."

My sentiment EXACTLY!

The Senate Republicans' Deficit Clock tracks the daily and fiscal year-to-date deficit. Three million dollars of red ink for today! That means the Democratic majority of the state legislature is burning up the limited time remaining in this legislative session without substantive deficit mitigation action. We should be talking about the financial crisis in Connecticut - not legislation that is destined for the trash heap.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Danbury Special Olympics Team

Congratulations to my heroes - the Special Olympics athletes competing at the Regional Games at Danbury High School today. BRAVO ATHLETES!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

National Day of Prayer

I head the pleasure of presenting the keynote address at the National Day of Prayer service on the North Steps of the State Capitol today. The following is the text of my remarks:

"Thank you to Audrey McIntyre and the team from the Connecticut House of Prayer for your work organizing our service today. Our state is fortunate to have such dedicated people of faith carrying the message “Our Saviour!”

Prayer is indeed America’s Hope! Psalm 33:22 "May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in you."

I share a birthday with one of my favorite spiritual leaders of our lifetime – Pope John Paul II, who said, “We cannot live without hope. We have to have some purpose in life, some meaning to our existence. We have to aspire to something. Without hope, we begin to die.”

Pope John Paul II was one of the most prolific writers of the 20th Century. In a message to Catholic Charismatics in 1996, he said, “True holiness does not mean a flight from the world; rather, it lies in the effort to incarnate the Gospel in everyday life, in the family, at school, and in social and political involvement.”

This message reminds me that separation of church and state does not mean the Gospel is not welcome in the political process. Indeed, the First Amendment, approved in 1791, states, “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.”

Abraham Lincoln understood this perhaps better than any other president when he said, “It is the duty of nations, as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God and to recognize the sublime truth announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.”

Faithful people of Connecticut have experienced great challenges watching the actions of legislators in this beautiful building. We have seen proposals which we’ve strongly disagreed with and some of us spoke out. I am grateful for those of you who contacted your legislators to express your displeasure. I am more concerned about the silence of many hundreds of thousands who quietly opposed legislation but did not contact their legislator.

The intense experiences as a freshman senator addressing legislation that threatened my Church and my faith led me to more intense prayer. I found myself regularly asking for friends and family to pray for me and my fellow legislators that we would have the wisdom to act responsibly during our deliberations.

I came across the Capitol Prayer Network in Minnesota – a group of nearly 5,000 people of faith praying for their legislators. Their group extended their border when I reached out to them and they were praying for us here in Connecticut.

Today I’d like to introduce an idea to you – the Connecticut Capitol Prayer Network. Several organizations, including the Connecticut House of Prayer, are providing prayer leadership in our state. Perhaps we can consider a sharper focus on regular prayer for our State Capitol – like the group in Minnesota and others who focus on the U.S. Capitol.

The Connecticut Capitol Prayer Network needs a pastoral leader and I pray that the Lord will direct someone to this ministry.

I am deeply humbled to join this esteemed group of faith leaders today. I am grateful to my Lord for His protection as His humble servant.

In closing, I refer to 1 Timothy 1:12 - “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service.”

Thank you and God Bless the great State of Connecticut!"

Interested in joining the Connecticut Capitol Prayer Network?