The lobbying arm of Massachusetts's four Roman Catholic dioceses is sending letters to every parish in the state, urging Catholics to inform lawmakers who did not vote against same-sex marriage of their "profound disappointment." At the same time, the letter gives the "highest praise" to lawmakers who opposed same-sex marriage during the March constitutional convention, when the Massachusetts legislature narrowly passed a measure that would put a state constitutional amendment on the ballot in 2006. The amendment would ban gay marriage but allow civil unions for same-sex couples.
The letter from the Massachusetts Catholic Conference does not endorse particular candidates or compare incumbents to challengers on the issue. All 200 seats in the legislature are up for grabs in November.
The letter is being sent to all 710 Catholic parishes in the state. It assesses each lawmaker based on his or her voting record during the constitutional convention and urges priests to share that information with parishioners. The letters are tailored to each parish, giving priests the voting record of lawmakers who represent the district in which the parish is located.
While the letter is seen by some as an attempt to influence the November elections, the Massachusetts Catholic Conference denies it, said Daniel Avila, associate director for policy and research at the conference. But Robert Boston, a spokesman for Washington-based Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said he thinks the conference "is itching to get its tax exemption revoked.... It would be difficult to look at this as anything other than a command of who to vote for and who to vote against, and the IRS code is very clear that churches and other religious bodies may not engage in that type of activity."