Revelations out of Washington D.C. are shedding light on concerning tactics by the Department of Justice targeting Catholic parishes. A leaked memorandum from the Richmond field office indicated that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was indeed working to infiltrate Catholic churches to combat extremism, conflicting with testimony from the U.S. attorney general.
State Sen. Phil Fortunato is standing against similar anti-Catholic efforts by some lawmakers in Washington state to strip First Amendment protections on freedom of religion, warning the anti-Catholic fervor has spread.
Senate Bill 5280, which would establish a duty for clergy to report child abuse or neglect, was recently subject to controversy on the Senate floor during a usually routine concurrence vote. Approved unanimously earlier in the 2023 legislative session by the state Senate, amendments made by the House would force priests to divulge information heard in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
During a voice vote, the Senate appeared to have rejected the changes, but some lawmakers called for “division,”, a parliamentary procedure that requires senators who either support or oppose an amendment to stand without a recorded, individual vote. The move split the majority Senate Democrat Caucus and sends the bill back to the House as the Senate refused to concur.
Fortunato offered the following statement:
“This is a concerning pattern of anti-Catholic efforts that are apparently engrained in all levels of government. What the Department of Justice is now not-so-secretly doing and what some legislators are trying to do to the Catholic Church in Washington is an unacceptable afront to our First Amendment rights.
“The state Senate unanimously approved this proposal when it left the chamber to go to the House because it balanced protecting children and religious freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution. Requiring priests to divulge what they hear in confession is beyond reprehensible.
“I also find it incredibly hypocritical because many of these same lawmakers pushing to break the separation of church and state to purportedly protect children are simultaneously putting children at risk with lax drug and gun laws, and even going so far as allowing child predators to live unsupervised in our communities. I am doing everything I can to call out this double-speak and ensure that the sanctity of our sacraments is protected from this overreach.”