Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Thousands at Rally for Religious Liberty

Supreme Knight Addresses Crowd of Thousands at Rally for Religious Liberty More than 5,000 Catholics attended a rally for religious freedom at the State Capitol in Hartford today. The rally, which featured the state's bishops and Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, came a day after a bill that would strip Connecticut Catholic bishops and priests of their administrative powers was abruptly withdrawn by its legislative sponsors.

. . . In Connectict, Catholics were legally forbidden from holding public office, or owning land into the 19th century. In fact, it took the Constitution State nearly three decades after ratification of the U.S. Constitution to grant something resembling First Amendment religious freedom to Catholics.

Even then attacks continued. Know-Nothings often tried to restrict the actions of the Catholic Church. One of their favorite tools was “trusteeism” – precisely what Bill 1098 would impose.

There has never been any doubt that government-mandated trusteeism was simply a tool to impose severe, unconstitutional limits on the Catholic Church.

Though the stated purpose for this bill is to prevent financial mismanagement of parishes, the bill’s sponsors ignore two facts: not only are such incidences incredibly rare, but the Catholic Church has adopted effective measures to prevent a repeat of such situations.

And so the bill is not only unconstitutional, it’s unnecessary.The bill’s sponsors might consider history's verdict on the Know-Nothings - whose tactics they have now adopted, for these Connecticut politicians are not only on the wrong side of the First Amendment, but on the wrong side of history.

It has been more than 150 years since a state was misguided enough to attempt such legislation, and for good reason.

In 1855, in the state of New York, the Know-Nothings scored a victory with the passage of the Putnam Bill in that state's legislature. This bill forced trusteeism on the Catholic Church, and created serious legal problems for its administration. It also presented the same fiction as the current bill: priests and bishops should focus only on matters of faith.

The Putnam Bill was repealed in 1863. . . .

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