.- Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison, Wisconsin is questioning the motives of a watchdog group who asked the state Elections Board to take action against his diocese for alleged electioneering.
The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign filed a complaint with the Elections Board after fliers, designed by the diocese, were distributed to Catholics at churches after Mass. The fliers encourage people to vote “yes” in November for the constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
Wisconsin law requires groups that spend more than $25 to support or oppose a state referendum to register with the Elections Board. The diocese insists that the flier campaign was geared to Catholics only and falls completely within the bishop’s mandate to teach his flock. As of late last week, Bishop Morlino said the Elections Board had not yet contacted him, reported the Wisconsin Radio Network.
Noting that the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign has said it is nonpartisan but publicized their strong recommendation to vote “no” on the referendum, Bishop Morlino questioned the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign’s motives in attacking his freedom to speak to Catholics.
“I have to wonder whether or not their desire to defeat this marriage amendment has maybe overtaken their desire to be fair about what the bishop can say inside his own churches," the bishop was quoted as saying on Wisconsin Radio Network.
While the Wisconsin Catholic Conference, which functions more actively in the political realm, has registered with the Elections Board, Bishop Morlino said he would not register with Board because he believes it would set a precedent that would impact his freedom to teach as a bishop.
"I cannot allow the state to become involved with how I teach my parishioners and my churches because that curtails our free exercise of religion and that's a principle that's far more valuable in the long run than any other," he reportedly said.
“I wouldn't want to set that precedent because that means that I somehow have to get involved with the state when I teach the basics of my faith inside my own churches,” he was quoted as saying. “I'd rather fight something out in the Supreme Court than give that much, because our freedom of religion has been eroded terribly."