Christine Stuart file photo

The chairmen of the legislature’s Judiciary Committee announced today that they decided to cancel tomorrow’s public hearing and table consideration of a bill which would have put lay individuals in charge of Roman Catholic Churches finances.

The announcement to cancel Wednesday’s public hearing was made after the two individuals, who reportedly requested the legislation, indicated that the bill went too far.

Thomas Gallagher, a parishioner at St. Catherine of Siena Roman Catholic Church in Greenwich, said, “The spirit of S.B. 1098 attempts to improve the bishops’ 40 year old model; however, it goes too far and has never been a part of my vision of possible changes.”

“At the request of the proponents who are advocating this legislation, we have decided to cancel the public hearing for tomorrow, table any further consideration of this bill for the duration of this session, and ask the Attorney General his opinion regarding the constitutionality of the existing law that sets different rules for five named separate religions,” Rep. Michael P. Lawlor, D-East Haven, and Sen. Andrew J. McDonald, D-Stamford, co-chairmen of the Judiciary Committee said in a written statement.

“It would serve no useful purpose to have a conversation about changing the laws that govern existing Roman Catholic corporations until we know if any of these existing laws are constitutional,” Lawlor and McDonald said in the statement.

“We think it would be more appropriate to invite representatives from all religious denominations around the state together with legal scholars on this topic to participate in a forum regarding the current law,” Lawlor and McDonald said. “We intend to do that once we have the benefit of the Attorney General’s opinion.”

Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Southport, said Tuesday that individual constituents can request legislation, “but they’re not the ones that decide which legislation gets raised by the committee.”

He said the Judiciary Committee leadership is being “disingenuous” when it says it introduced the legislation at the request of constituents. He said they need to make a definitive statement that they brought the bill out by mistake.

McKinney, who is an Episcopalian, said while the proposed bill dealt strictly with the Catholic Church, ” it can interfere and alter all religions.”

Republican Party Chairman Chris Healy said in the hallway of the legislative office building Tuesday that he would “like to know the real motivation behind it.”

He said not everybody who wants a bill raised gets one.

Republican leaders said since thousands of constituents from around the state planned on attending Wednesday’s now-cancelled public hearing they will instead host a forum at noon somewhere in the legislative office building. The exact location has yet to be determined. 

Related story: Catholic Church Calls Proposed Bill ‘Unconstitutional’