I received this extremely troubling e-mail over the weekend from my paisan Peter Wolfgang of the Family Institute of Connecticut:
Big Turnout Needed Wednesday, March 11th to Stop Major New Attack on Religious Liberty!
The [Democrat]-controlled Judiciary Committee has introduced Raised Bill 1098, a bill aimed specifically at the Catholic Church, which would remove the authority of the bishop and pastor over individual parishes and put a board of laymen in their place. Yes, we’re asking the same questions you are (Where does the legislature have the authority to do this? Isn’t this a blatant violation of the First Amendment?), but we assure you that this is not a hoax.
We need as big a turnout as possible for the public hearing on Wednesday, especially from non-Catholics. As Ben Franklin told the Founders while they were signing the Declaration of Independence, “either we hang together or we will all hang separately.” Legislators need to understand that this bill is an attack on everyone’s religious liberty.
If the legislature can replace a bishop with a board of laymen in the Catholic Church, they can just as easily replace the governing lay structure of Congregationalist or Baptist churches with someone set up as a bishop. In fact, it was resistance to such government interference in the internal life of the church that gave birth to several of our most historic denominations. Thanks to this awful bill, our generation must now rise up to defend those hard-fought victories for religious liberty that were won for us by our ancestors.
The Judiciary Committee will hold a public hearing on R.B. 1098 on Wednesday, March 11, 2009 at 12:00 P. M. in Room 2C of the LOB. Please submit 45 copies of written testimony to Committee staff at least two hours prior to the start of the hearing in Room 2500 of the LOB. Testimony submitted after the designated time may not be distributed until after the hearing. Sign-up for the hearing will begin at 10: 00 A. M. in Room 2500 of the LOB. Sign-up will conclude 30 minutes before the start of the hearing. Speaker order will be decided by a lottery system. Anyone wishing to testify after the drawing is closed will be placed at the end of the list. The first hour of the hearing is reserved for public officials. Speakers will be limited to 3 minutes of testimony.