Washington state regulators have warned
a Roman Catholic bishop that his plan to raise funds against the
state's gay marriage law would violate state campaign finance laws.
Bishop Joseph Tyson recently sent a
letter to Yakima-area pastors calling on them to distribute donation
envelopes from Preserve Marriage Washington, the campaign seeking to
overturn the state's recently approved marriage law. Parish priests
are instructed to collect the envelopes and mail them directly to the
Lori Anderson, a spokeswoman for the
state's Public Disclosure Commission (PDC), told Reuters that the
diocese risks violating the law.
“It's not because it's a church.
It's because it's not a stand-alone individual,” she said.
She explained that no organization
other than a political action committee is allowed to be an
intermediary for a contribution. Donors must send in their
contributions individually. Also allowed would be for a member of
Preserve Marriage to collect the contributions.
At Preserve Marriage's website, a
section titled church tools asks churches to collect “all envelopes
from donors, put them in a larger mailing envelope, put your church
name and return address on the mailing envelopes and send it via
regular U.S. mail.”
“If someone from the campaign asked
me ahead of time, 'Can this happen?' I would have said no,”
Anderson told the AP.
“We think that they're wrong and potentially giving people advice
that could get them in trouble.”
A spokesman for Preserve Marriage said
he was “confident that our legally reviewed materials comply with
all of Washington state's campaign finance requirements.”
The PDC said it would be reaching out
to Bishop Tyson on the matter.
“It's not our envelope. We're not
collecting the money. And we're not taking the money,” Tyson
explained to local CBS affiliate KIMA-TV.