Connecticut tries to regulate church governance

Posted on March 10, 2009


It’s barely believable, but scarily true. In a shocking assault on the separation of church and state, the Connecticut legislature was slated to hear a Democrat-sponsored bill that would create lay councils to oversee church finances. The bill has rightly provoked outrage among many in the religious community, who hastily organized a campaign to register their extreme misgivings with a legislative act that would essentially dictate to the Catholic Church how it should operate. Luckily, after a rapid and massive public outcry, the bill was withdrawn from consideration and is dead for the rest of the legislative session.

Why introduce this bill in the first place? The Constitution, via the First Amendment, says that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” If you want to be pedantically nitpicky, you could argue that it was a state legislature and not Congress seeking to regulate the Church, but the spirit of the law of the land is that government should not stick an overt hand into the affairs of faith.

We hear cries of “separation of church and state” every time a politician makes a public statement in favor of religion or that might be construed as too “dangerously religious.” Yet I believe the separation is more likely to be violated by government than by a church. This country was founded with the intention of securing “freedom of religion,” not “freedom from religion.” The distinction is subtle yet beyond importance.

The Anchoress is rightly concerned about this initial skirmish, and wonders whether we’ll see a schism leading to an American Catholic Church, much as the Anglican Church broke away in England, as the importance of the individual/collective over the divine is celebrated with increasing emphasis. I unfortunately have to say her prediction has a great chance of coming to pass. Some may react joyfully to the news that a growing number of Americans are atheist or agnostic, but I find the loss of faith sadly disappointing.

Faith and religion are denigrated by progressive intelligentsia and mainstream pop culture as barbaric backward byproducts of earlier ignorant eras, while the enriching and fulfilling aspects of faith are downplayed, ignored, or ridiculed. I foresee a step-up in the culture wars against religion, led by a progressive movement emboldened by recent electoral victories. My own personal opinion is that America is happier with a healthy religious sector, and broadsides against it, like this ill-considered bill in Connecticut, are designed to weaken that resolve to replace it with the religion of secular humanism that is neither inspiring or uplifting.

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