Having returned to these fair shores after an overseas trip, the end of which culminated in a total of 13 hours of flight time, it was with a general sense of relief and peace that I betook myself a seat in my favorite pew in my local parish for Mass last Sunday. But, as has too often happened in the past few months, examples of our Lord’s predictions of persecution and calumny against those who believe in him came true once again as our learned pastor took to the pulpit to address us.
It seems that our Diocese of Bridgeport — which in March was forced to marshal the faithful to defend itself from unconstitutional government interference — was notified by the Connecticut Office of State Ethics that it is under investigation for possible violations of the state’s lobbying laws. This of course is nothing less than the vindictive retribution by an entity whose leadership has become as anti-religious a nest of vipers as our Lord ever encountered. But our courageous bishop, William E. Lori, is not taking this lying down and has filed an injunction in Federal Court to end this harassment. In a letter to the faithful, he laid out the facts:
Following the surprise introduction of Bill 1098, a proposal that singled out Catholic parishes and would have forced them to reorganize contrary to Church law and the First Amendment, our Diocese responded in the most natural, spontaneous, and frankly, American, of ways: we alerted our membership — in person and through our website; we encouraged them to exercise their free speech by contacting their elected representatives; and, we organized a rally at the State Capitol. How can this possibly be called lobbying?
He then delivered the kind of rebuke that should warm the hearts of freedom-lovers everywhere:
This cannot possibly be what our Legislature had in mind when it sought to bring more transparency and oversight to a legislative process that has been corrupted by special interests and back-room deals. If it is, then it should shock the conscience of all citizens of the Constitution State.
The State of Connecticut, like so many other American governmental bodies that deliberately obscure their statutes with lawyerly twaddle, basically defines lobbying as those who spend over $2,000 in any year to: “communicate directly or solicit others to communicate with any official or his staff in the legislative or executive branch of government or in a quasi-public agency, for the purpose of influencing any legislative or administrative action…” There are of course exceptions; one of which is unsurprisingly granted to members of the media.
So in other words, if you, dear taxpayer, were to have the audacity to be offended at the next usurpation of your constitutionally guaranteed liberties by your betters in government, and decided to organize your fellow ungrateful citizens into a letter-writing campaign, and if the cost of this exceeded two grand, you too might be the subject of government retribution. Welcome to the Constitution State!
The point of all this is that in the continuing war between church and state, governments — which in the words of our Declaration of Independence are sending “swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance” –are counting on the servile acquiescence of the governed to severely curb our religious freedom. And sadly, it is working.
Colleges and universities, once the bastions of independent thinking and free speech, are now the home to the most stifling rules and regulations punishing the exercise of same.
Private citizens too have been muzzled both socially; bowing to politically correct admonitions never to discuss religion or politics in public, and governmentally; by the soon to be enacted “hate crime” legislation.
Of course, those who hate religion in general and the Catholic Church in particular will attempt to howl her into submission by endlessly reviving the so-called “pedophile priest” issue; as if the sins of a few should render the whole body illegitimate. Were this rule similarly applied to the rest of our society, the halls of Congress themselves would also fall silent. Not a bad thought, actually.
Yet, in view of the continuing assaults on our religious freedom, one has to doubt if this country could have been founded at all in light of today’s standards. Many were the fiery speeches delivered from pulpits in support of American Independence, based on the natural law. One also wonders if clergyman like the Rev. Martin Luther King and others who organized marches in favor of civil rights would today be considered lobbyists. Or what, if any, action should be taken against the many black churches that actively welcome politics and politicians to their lecterns; the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and friends here come to mind.
To take this to the next level, how long will it be before we will see rabbis and pastors across the land become fearful of exercising not only their religious freedom, but their sacred right of free speech as Americans to express their opposition or support for pending legislation. This is already underway in Canada and will probably, like government healthcare, soon speed southward.
We who love the disappearing U.S. Constitution do so in part because–unlike the Declaration which uses lofty language addressed to the whole world–its meanings are clearly spelled out in words that did and still should speak to American hearts and minds. Words like these that should continue to inspire all future American “lobbyists”:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
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