HARTFORD – State Representatives David Labriola (R-Oxford) and Rosa Rebimbas (R-Naugatuck) today denounced a legislative proposal before the General Assembly’s Judiciary Committee which would strip Roman Catholic Churches of control of their finances.
The legislation, introduced by Judiciary Committee co-chairmen, Rep. Michael Lawlor (D-East Haven) and Sen. Andrew McDonald (D-Stamford), has sparked outrage from Catholic leaders across the state.
“This proposed bill is a violation of the fundamental separation of church and state, and I strongly oppose this measure,” said Labriola. “It almost appears that this was an intentional and direct attack on Roman Catholics alone, as the bill doesn’t make reference to any other religious group. I doubt such a bill could even pass constitutional muster.”
“This proposed bill is one more example of an attack on our First Amendment Constitutional rights,” said Rep. Rebimbas. ”The fact that it is directed at Roman Catholic Churches defies common sense. This bill would put all religious organizations at risk. I cannot imagine that it will survive but if it does, I will be sure to oppose it.”
Both legislators noted that with the state facing a roughly $8 billion budget deficit over the next two years, there is some bitter irony in a bill dictating to Catholic churches how their finances should be organized.
“We are billions of dollars in the red in the middle of a major financial crisis,” said Labriola. “They should have much more important priorities than attacking the Catholic churches.”
The Democrats pushing the takeover in the wake of a scandal involving misuse of funds at a Darien parish want to establish lay boards of directors to manage financial matters of local churches. Matters of fiscal oversight or complaints lodged with the board would be subject to investigation by the state Attorney General under the proposal.
Both Lawlor and McDonald put out a joint statement this afternoon distancing themselves from the bill they raised.
Church officials urged members to contact the two key Democrats pushing the proposal, state Rep. Michael Lawlor of East Haven and state Sen. Andrew McDonald of Stamford. A public hearing is scheduled for Wednesday at the Capitol.