Saturday, June 27, 2009

Eroding Freedom of Speech in America

Canon David Anderson writes, "The United States Senate is apparently having hearings on Senate Bill S909, which is also called the Matthew Shepherd bill after the homosexual young man who was murdered some years ago in Wyoming. It purports to set aside certain sexual behaviors as a protected class and provides additional punishment for crimes committed against these persons. The main problem with this legislation centers on the limitations on free speech for individuals and pastors, priests, and rabbis who might say that certain sexual behavior is wrong, is sinful, or who might read passages from the Bible that proscribe such behavior. Now I’m not lobbying any of you to do anything, lest the state of Connecticut throw me in jail, but if you have feelings about free speech and the church having the right to teach the Bible openly and clearly - well, it’s up to you. Do you know who your US Senators are?

Dearly beloved in Christ,

For our readers in the United States, there are some legal issues that bear watching. Similar issues are already in play in other parts of the world, so others may wish to track these as well.
In Connecticut, a proposed state law known as Bill 1098 dictates that local Roman Catholic parishes would have to legally reorganize their governing structures, taking priests out of positions of authority and putting lay leaders in charge. This blatant intrusion of the state into the internal operation of a church is appalling, and is a clear violation of the protections afforded churches, synagogues and other religious entities.

What would you do if your state government tried to tell you how to order the internal affairs of your church? Protest? Organize your followers and demonstrate? Those responses would seem reasonable and proper except in Connecticut. The Roman Catholics did organize and protest and asked their members to exercise their free speech by contacting their elected representatives, and then they held a rally at the State Capital. Was it effective? It is reported that one month later, Thomas K. Jones, the ethics enforcement officer of the state OSE, told church representatives that the rally in Hartford, Connecticut and statements on their diocesan website constituted lobbying, which is prohibited to a religious non-profit, and besides they were lobbying without being properly registered as lobbyists! Apparently, if Jones files the complaint against the Roman Catholic Church for defending itself against singular legislation targeting them, they could be fined up to $10,000 and possibly even have criminal charges brought against the diocese.

Therefore, the Roman Catholic diocese has had to go into federal court to stop this state-sponsored insanity directed toward reorganizing their church. The action by the state of Connecticut not only interferes with the non-establishment clause of the Constitution’s Bill of Rights, but also interferes with the church’s right to free speech. We will try to track the outcome of the litigation for our readers.

Read it all here.

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