Yakima, WA —
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 campaign.
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