- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 24, 2006

BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney signaled that 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, Mr. Romney said that although he thinks 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 defeat it. The bill has passed the Senate.

The bill would require religious organizations with revenues of more than $500,000 a year to file financial reports with the attorney general’s office and provide it with a list of their real estate holdings.

“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,” Mr. Romney said.

The measure, in part, is an outgrowth of the clergy sex abuse scandal that engulfed the Catholic Church in Boston. In its aftermath, 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 to settle lawsuits and then moved to close dozens of parishes.

Supporters are asking for a meeting with Mr. Romney, a Republican who is considering a run for president in 2008.

“The governor misunderstands the bill,” Secretary of State William F. 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 Mr. Romney is open to meetings with proponents of the bill, but not until it gets to his desk.

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