A bill to change how Catholic churches operate has drawn widespread criticism and caused a public hearing to be postponed. Opponents say the legislation tramples religious freedoms and should never have been written in the first place.
The state's current religious corporations act provides rules for how the Catholic church self-governs. But similar rules governing the Episcopalians or Lutherans are written differently. All of these rules are based on decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court. Now, lawmakers want a legal opinion from Attorney General Richard Blumenthal. He says he'll review the state's current law, although he says he has yet to hear the request from lawmakers, themselves.
The controversy started when Greenwich resident, Tom Gallagher, proposed a bill.
"My little idea was to simply add a few more lay trustees to the Catholic parish corporation board who would be permanent members on a multi-year basis."
Gallagher, who is a member of the Bridgeport Catholic diocese, wanted the laity or parishioners to have more say in church finances. He says it's needed after a case in Darien where a pastor embezzled almost half a million dollars.
But the mere idea that the Democratically-controlled Judiciary Committee singled out the Catholic Church is what upsets Senate Minority Leader John McKinney.
"Why change the Catholic religion which has existed for thousand of years? That's up to the Catholic church and people of Catholic faith. That is not up to the state of Connecticut and our government or any other government, period!"
Judiciary Committee co-chairs, Senator Andrew MacDonald and Representative Mike Lawlor tabled any further consideration of the bill during this session and have asked Gallagher and church officials to come up with their own resolution.
Despite this, angry Catholics still plan to speak at the Capitol Wednesday in a room reserved by House and Senate Republicans even though the bill is effectively dead.