An interesting contest now in Connecticut between certain legislators and the Roman Catholic church and allies.

A Bill currently under consideration would mandate lay boards for Roman Catholic parish corporations, with the Archbishop or Bishop being an ex officio member without vote.

Full text of the bill here. Status here.

This Bill has provoked strong opposition from the Archdiocese of Hartford.

In a letter to parishioners the Archbishop wrote that the bill "directly attacks the Roman Catholic Church and our faith," because "[i]t forces a radical reorganization of the legal, financial, and administrative structure of our parishes" and "disconnects parishes from their Pastors and their Bishop."

Wizbang reports and responds to this bill, urging readers to contact the Bill's sponsors and give them what for. One of the links is to the Family Institute of Connecticut, a conservative political action group opposing the Bill.

On the one hand, the First Amendment, as it has been interpretted, would seem to forbid such government restructuring of a church. After all, the Roman Catholic Church is hiearchical, power and authority flows from the top down, not the bottom up. The Shepherds--pastors, bishops, archbishops, pope--are decision makers, not simply advisors or persuaders.

On the other hand, the state has the responsibility to establish adequate safeguards regarding legal corporations and their activities. The Church does not exist in a vacuum. Congregations, parishes, and denominations carry on activities that are covered by civil law.

If this Bill passes, I am sure it will be challenged in court. It will be interesting to see just where the courts would draw the line between necessary regulation of a non-profit corporation, and undue interference in the basic structure of a religion. My guess is that this Bill goes too far in giving power to laity in a religion that believes Christ established a hierarchy.