If public figures with an animus against the Catholic Church were driven out of public life, Connecticut’s Andrew McDonald would not be sitting on the Connecticut Supreme Court today. That he has been nominated by Gov. Dannel Malloy to be Chief Justice makes this story all the more surreal.
In 2011, McDonald, then a state senator, introduced a bill with Rep. Michael Lawlor that would have allowed state officials to take over the administrative and fiscal decisions of the Catholic Church in Connecticut. It authorized lay Catholics in each parish to run internal affairs, stripping the pastor of his duties.
This power grab — one of the most blatant violations of separation of church and state in American history — was announced on March 5, 2011. Importantly, the public did not learn of it until the next day, a Friday; the hearings were shoved through in stealth-like fashion on March 11, thus denying Catholics an opportunity to adequately marshal a protest.
As I said then, this was “payback” time. “This brutal act of revenge by Lawlor and McDonald, two champions of gay marriage,” I wrote, “is designed to muzzle the voice of the Catholic Church.”
I went further, calling on them to be removed from office. “By singling out the Catholic Church —no other religion has been targeted— Lawlor and McDonald have demonstrated that they are ethically unfit to continue as lawmakers. They have evinced a bias so strong, and so malicious, that it compromises their ability to serve the public good. They should therefore be expelled by their colleagues.”
How would lawmakers, and the media, treat it if a Connecticut bishop said it was time for Catholic officials in the state to take over the administrative and fiscal responsibilities of the legislature? Would he not be the subject of condemnation? Would there not be calls for him to resign? Would this not be seen as a First Amendment crisis?
When this happened, Bridgeport Archbishop William Lori (now the Archbishop of Baltimore), led the fight against this unprecedented trashing of religious liberty. We were happy to play a secondary role. The governor at the time, M. Jodi Rell, said that what the two lawmakers were seeking to do was “blatantly unconstitutional, insensitive, and inappropriate.”
It does not speak well for the current governor that he does not see what Rell saw. Worse, Gov. Malloy wants to promote McDonald to be Chief Justice.
If McDonald had singled out Muslims or Jews the way he did Catholics, he would have been run out of town, and the Catholic League would have supported his ouster. That he is poised to lead the Supreme Court on matters of religious liberty, especially as they affect Catholics, is mind-boggling.
Justice demands that someone else be chosen as the new Chief Justice in Connecticut. We will let lawmakers know of our outrage.
Bill Donohue is president of the Catholic League.