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Bill to make churches open books defeated

Jan. 26, 2006 at 6:52 PM

BOSTON, Jan. 26 (UPI) -- A bill that would have required religious organizations to file annual financial reports was buried by the Massachusetts House amid intensive lobbying.

The measure was defeated 147-3 Wednesday, the Boston Globe reported.

The bill would have required detailed reporting from all organizations with annual revenues of $500,000 or more, with limited reports from smaller churches. It was inspired by the sex abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church, which began in the Archdiocese of Boston, and by the outcry over the archdiocese's closing of parishes.

Catholic Archbishop Sean O'Malley, one of many clergy lobbying against the bill, distributed a letter to be read in all parishes. Other clergy, like Bishop Robert Brown of Zion Church Ministries in Everett, said the bill was not needed because churches already provide the information.

Many ministers were in the gallery during the vote.

"The real story here is that it's the first time in a long time that the Legislature is aware that there are churches outside the archdiocese," said the Rev. Stephen T. Ayres, of Boston's Old North Church, which is Episcopalian.

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