January 25, 2006

Churches say audits would be too costly

Telegram & Gazette


Opposition among Central Massachusetts churches continues to mount against proposed legislation that would require them to report their finances to the state.

Carole L. Kowal, of Spencer First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, said small congregations such as hers are struggling to pay skyrocketing fuel bills and maintain their buildings, and cannot afford the extra expense involved.

She called the proposed bill “well-intentioned” but said it would have unintended consequences for independent and small congregations.

“Imagine the New England landscape dotted with all those white steeples rising over town commons. Now imagine them boarded up and empty because that is where we are headed,” Ms. Kowal said.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Marian D. Walsh, D-Boston, arose because of problems Catholics in the Boston archdiocese had when seeking information about the finances of the archdiocese after large payouts were made in the sexual abuse scandal and after the closing of numerous parishes and sell-offs of church property. A hearing on the legislation is scheduled for 1 p.m. today at the Statehouse.

Meanwhile, Gov. Mitt Romney signaled this week that he may veto the bill if it passes, according to The Associated Press.

In remarks on Monday to reporters, Mr. Romney said that while he believes government and society have a responsibility to regulate churches and charities, the measure before the Legislature goes too far.

Posted by kshaw at January 25, 2006 09:10 AM