Church Broke Law In Pushing Gay Marriage Amendment
by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff
March 8, 2006 - 3:00 pm ET
(Helena, Montana) Montana's commissioner of political practices has ruled that a suburban Helena church broke state campaign laws over its involvement in promoting an amendment to the state constitution banning same-sex marriage.
The measure passed in 2004 and LGBT civil rights groups complained that Canyon Ferry Road Baptist Church had violated the law by hosting events promoting the amendment and by using the church to collected names to get the issue on the ballot.
In his ruling Gordon Higgins, state commissioner of political practices, said that the church failed to file required campaign disclosure documents and that the church had become an "incidental campaign committee".
In his 10-page ruling Higgins said that the church is not restricted from participating in the election process but should have disclosed the monetary value of its help to the campaign.
The ruling noted that other churches in the state also were involved in amendment, but they filed required campaign disclosure documents.
The ruling did not include penalties. It will be up to the county attorney's office to decide whether to lay criminal charges. Usually in such cases charges are never laid.
The church disagrees with Higgins findings. It's suing his office claiming that Higgins' investigation violated the church's right to free speech. That case is now pending in federal district court.