OLYMPIA – Washington state’s campaign finance watchdog said Tuesday that the state’s Catholic churches can’t collect donations from their parishioners for the campaign seeking to overturn the state’s gay marriage law.
Last week, Yakima Bishop Joseph Tyson sent a letter to pastors in 41 parishes asking that they announce a special collection at upcoming services that would go to Preserve Marriage Washington, which is opposed to same-sex marriage. The group forced a November vote with Referendum 74, which asks voters to either approve or reject the law passed earlier this year that allows same-sex marriage in the state.
The diocese’s chief of staff, Monsignor Robert Siler, said Tuesday that the collection date was set for Sept. 8-9.
But Lori Anderson, a spokeswoman for the state’s Public Disclosure Commission, said no organization can be an intermediary for a contribution. The church can hand out envelopes at Mass, but a member of Preserve Marriage Washington has to be on hand to collect them or parishioners must send them in individually, she said.
Anderson said the restrictions stem from Initiative 134, which voters passed in 1992 to regulate political contributions and campaign spending.
Siler said the diocese coordinated its efforts with the Washington State Catholic Conference.
He said the envelopes are pre-addressed to the campaign.
“We’re just collecting envelopes and forwarding them,” he said.
Anderson said that even so, what the church is proposing to do is what federal laws refer to as “bundling,” and that isn’t allowed under state law.