.- The Knights of Columbus, the Catholic Church and the Family Institute of Connecticut have begun a campaign in Connecticut to secure religious freedom exemptions to a bill implementing the state Supreme Courtâs 2008 decision which mandated the recognition of same-sex âmarriages.â The campaign includes automated phone calls, television and newspaper ads, and bishopsâ statements, the Hartford Courant reports.
"We're facing another attack on our religious liberty," said a letter written by Bishop of Norwich Michael Cote. "It's very serious and has to be stopped now."
Campaign leaders cited concerns about the billâs repeal of a provision protecting children from âgovernment indoctrination in sexual lifestyles.â Further, they warned the bill could help compel wedding photographers, justices of the peace and marriage therapists to participate in same-sex âmarriageâ ceremonies and related activities against their consciences.
The leaders are asking the state legislature to create a religious liberties exception when it codifies the courtâs decision.
"Freedom of religion [is a] fundamental right that [has] been inscribed in our federal constitution forever," attorney John Droney, who is providing legal advice to the Knights of Columbus, told the Hartford Courant. "It doesn't suddenly get put on the shelf because of this new, emerging right."
A Knights of Columbus-commissioned poll by Marist College showed that 70 percent of Connecticut voters disapprove of imposing fines and penalties on public officials who refuse to perform same-sex âmarriagesâ based on religious objections.
The Diocese of Bridgeport said that Bishop of Bridgeport William E. Lori wrote a letter inserted into parish bulletins over the past weekend, with an announcement being read from the pulpit.
Referring to the recent successful fight against SB 1098, state legislation which would have compelled the administrative reorganization of the Catholic Church, Bishop Loriâs letter thanked Catholics for their âswift and decisive action.â
âWe need you to speak out again,â he said, echoing Bishop Coteâs warning about âanother attack on our religious liberty.â
He reported that Senate legislation implementing the Connecticut Supreme Courtâs order to recognize same-sex marriage had been sent to the full Senate. However, Bishop Lori warned, the legislation does not protect the First Amendment religious freedoms of individuals, religious organizations, and related societies.â
The bishop said concerned citizens should not be distracted by claims about clergy exemptions.
âWhen you contact the State Legislature about Bill 899, you may be told that it exempts clergy from having to officiate at same-sex weddings. But this bill does not guarantee the First Amendment rights of clergy, religious, and laity to practice their faith and operate their programs and services in accordance with their sincerely-held religious beliefs,â he said.
The bishop said individuals and religious groups, particularly those that provide social and educational services, would be subject to âcivil harassment in the form of lawsuits.â
âThe State of Connecticut could try to coerce religious groups by giving grants, contracts, and licenses only to organizations that recognize and support same-sex marriage,â he said.
Bishop Lori explained that related actions forced Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Boston to halt adoption services because it would not place children with homosexual couples, while in Canada the Knights of Columbus were fined for refusing to rent their hall for a homosexual wedding reception.
He also warned that Bill 899 repeals a current provision that protects children from âgovernment indoctrination in sexual lifestyles that are contrary to our beliefs.â
âIf you want to see how far this has already gone, visit the stateâs âSafe Harbor Projectâ website,â he advised.
The site says:
âIn accordance with Connecticut law, LGBT individuals should never be placed in a setting where they will be subject to condemnation, indoctrination, acts of violence, bigotry, intolerance, proselytizing, bullying, prejudice or harassment.â
The site also announces that the State of Connecticutâs child welfare system will be working with the homosexual activist group Human Rights Campaign on an âexciting new initiativeâ called "All Children All Families." The initiative reportedly will help the child welfare system âfind permanent families for children by promoting fairness for LGBT foster and adoptive parents and even our mentors.â
Bishop Lori called on churchgoers to contact their State Senator and Representative to ask them to vote against Senate Bill 899 because it is a violation of religious freedom.
He also announced that news and updates will be posted at the Diocese of Bridgeportâs website, www.bridgeportdiocese.com