Well, I'll be damned;
Story By DANIELA ALTIMARI
The Hartford Courant
5:02 PM EDT, June 25, 2009
Saying it is a matter of free speech, the ACLU has filed a brief in support of the Diocese of Bridgeport's battle against a state agency seeking to require the church to register as a lobbyist.
"The free exchange of ideas are at stake here,'' said Andrew Schneider, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut. "The application of this lobbying law to public gatherings such as the church's rally have the effect of chilling free speech.''
The diocese filed a lawsuit in federal court last month, seeking an injunction against an attempt by the Office of State Ethics to require the church to register as a lobbyist.
In March, more than 4,000 Catholics descended on the Capitol to protest Bill 1098, which proposed having lay councils of seven to 13 people oversee the finances of local parishes, relegating Catholic pastors and bishops to an advisory role.
Church officials were sharply critical of the bill and organized the rally and, on their website, asked parishioners to contact their local legislators to protest the plan. The bill was eventually withdrawn amid questions about its constitutionality.
But the issue did not end there. About a month later, church officials received a letter from the Office of State Ethics informing them that they were the "subject of an ... evaluation" to determine whether the diocese had violated state statutes by failing to register as a lobbyist before the rally.
Schneider said such a requirement undermines the church's First Amendment rights.
Registering as a lobbyist, he noted, is more intrusive than merely filing out a form. "It requires you to be subject to certain financial disclosures, to submit to audits of expenditures,'' he said. The diocese issued a statement welcoming the ACLU's brief. "
"The ACLU's decision to join with the Diocese in this case demonstrates that this is a matter of fundamental civil liberties that threatens the Constitutional rights of all citizens," says The Most Rev. William E. Lori, Bishop of Bridgeport.
"Holding a protest rally on the steps of the State Capitol and posting information on our diocesan website are not lobbying but an expression of our First Amendment rights of free speech. We welcome the support of the Nation's leading civil liberties organization, and look forward to making our case against the misguided actions of the Office of State Ethics."
Friday, June 26, 2009
Well, I'll be damned;