“As a bishop,” writes Bridgeport’s William Lori, “I will take every measure possible to defend our faith and our Church from attempts to silence us — and our individual parishes could be targeted next.”
One thing he is willing to do, it turns out, is sue the state of Connecticut.
It started when parish reorganization Bill 1098 was announced in Connecticut with just five days before its scheduled hearing, Bishop Lori recounts on his blog. At that point, the Bridgeport Diocese:
• “alerted our membership — in person and through our website;”
• “encouraged them to exercise their free speech by contacting their elected representatives;”
• “We organized a rally at the State Capitol in Hartford.”
In May, though, an examiner at the Connecticut Office of State Ethics informed the diocese that these steps constituted “lobbying.” The state demanded that the Church register as a lobbyist.
“’Lobbying’?” writes the bishop. “Exhortations from the pulpit, information posted to the World Wide Web, a rally in the middle of the day on the state’s most public piece of property? This cannot possibly be what our Legislature had in mind when it enacted lobbying laws to bring more transparency and oversight to a legislative process that has been corrupted by special interests and backroom deals.”
He says the new action “cannot be seen as anything other than an attempt to muzzle the Church and subject our right of free speech to government review and regulation.”
Says the bishop: “We have now been left with no choice but to file a civil rights lawsuit in federal court against state of Connecticut officials seeking relief from this shocking government action. A copy of the lawsuit and more information is posted now on our website.”