What Bill of Rights?

This afternoon I was talking with someone about faith and work. I told him I thought this was an interesting time in our country. I see Catholics and Christians in general being more vocal about their faith and their right to participate in the public sphere. At the same time, I see more opposition than ever against people of faith in this country, specifically Christian faith.

I considered that a bit more and realized that trend of Christians being more outspoken is in response to the trend of trying to deny Christians their right to participate in public affairs. I found the proof of that a few hours later. The state of Connecticut has taken the lead in trying to disenfranchise Catholics. Earlier this year some Connecticut legislators introduced a bill to force the Catholic church, and only the Catholic church, to change its organizational structure. The bill was unconstitutional as the first amendment prohibits government from interfering with the exercise of religion. A state mandating the organizational structure of a church is so obviously the exact kind of interference that the first amendment prohibits that the sponsors were forced to withdraw the bill after attention was drawn to it. The archdiocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut was instrumental in leading the opposition.

Not content to just violate one clause of the first amendment, the state of Connecticut has upped the ante. Its Office of State Ethics has launched an investigation into the archdiocese’s actions in opposing the unconstitutional bill last March. The government claims that the archdiocese acted as a lobbying organization for higher buses to take people to protests and using its web site to encourage church members to contact their legislators about the bill. The government is claiming the archdiocese was required to register as a lobbying organization.

Bridgeport’s Archbishop William Lori calls the investigation a violation of the first amendment’s guarantee to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. I says that it is also a violation of the right to petition the government. Requiring people or organizations to register as lobbyists, especially when they are targets of proposed legislation prohibits those organizations from exercising their right of petition.

Who would have thought that in 2009 there would be overt government action in this country to suppress a churchi? Yes, Christians are being more vocal because they must if they want to preserve their own rights.