Gov. Mitt Romney signaled he may veto a bill that would require religious groups to disclose their finances and is strongly opposed by religious organizations. In remarks on Monday with reporters, 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. His remarks come as the state House of Representatives is poised to consider the measure this week and as the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston and other religious denominations seek to get it defeated. The bill has already passed the Senate.
The bill, in part an outgrowth of the clergy sex abuse scandal that engulfed the Roman Catholic church in Boston, would require all religious organizations that have revenues of more than $500,000 (Ђ407,265) a year to file financial reports and provide a list of real estate holdings with the attorney general's office.
"I will not be able to support a bill which goes beyond a very routine regulatory interaction level but instead imposes the kind of onerous reporting requirements, oversight and intrusion in religious practice which is reportedly being considered by some associated with this bill," Romney said.
In the aftermath of the abuse scandal, some lawmakers and parishioners have sought more information about the church's finances and its real estate holdings particularly as the archdiocese spent more than $85 million (Ђ69 million) to settle lawsuits and then moved to close dozens of parishes.
Supporters are now asking for a meeting with Romney, a Republican who is considering a run for president in 2008. "The governor misunderstands the bill," Secretary of State William Galvin, a co-sponsor of the legislation, told The Boston Globe. "It is not intrusive as he thinks it is, and, in fact, it meets his criteria as he defined routine regulatory review." Eric Fehrnstrom, the governor's spokesman, said Romney is open to meetings with proponents of the bill, but not until it gets to his desk, reports the AP. N.U.