January 25, 2006

Bill requiring financial disclosures from religious groups defeated

Boston Globe

By Scott Helman, Globe Staff | January 25, 2006

The Massachusetts House today soundly defeated legislation that would require religious organizations to file annual financial reports with the state, dealing a major blow to lawmakers who sought to make churches and other institutions more accountable to the public.

By a vote of 147-3, the House shot down the latest in a stream of controversial bills that have come to the floor in recent weeks, including failed legislation to grant in-state tuition rates to illegal immigrants and a primary seat belt bill that narrowly passed last week.

The legislation on religious organizations, which prompted fierce lobbying and scores of phone calls and e-mails to legislators, was seen as a major test of the Catholic Church's influence on Beacon Hill. The church was joined by many other religious groups in opposing the bill, saying it was an unwarranted and costly intrusion by the state into the practice of religion.

The bill would have required all religious organizations to file limited information about their finances and real estate holdings annually with the attorney general's charities division, and would have mandated that any organization with annual revenues of more than $500,000 file detailed financial reports every year.

Some lawmakers and lay Catholics have demanded more information about the financial health and holdings of the Boston Archdiocese as it settled civil suits from the clergy sexual abuse crisis and launched a sweeping reconfiguration of parishes.

Posted by kshaw at January 25, 2006 04:37 PM