I am not sure exactly what it is that state Rep. John Lesch, DFL-St. Paul, was arguing for in his meandering commentary ("The bishops: One-way on a two-way street," Feb. 10).

But it is hard to interpret it as anything other than an attempt to delegitimize as both legally suspect and out-of-step with American values the Catholic Church's rights to speak in the public square and serve the public without unreasonable governmental interference.

Lesch's remarks may delight the acolytes of Planned Parenthood, but they could have negative consequences, particularly for those who are cared for by nonprofits such as the Catholic Church.

Lesch is a lawyer, so he should know better that all nonprofit, tax-exempt organizations -- religious and secular, and not just the ones who agree with him -- are free to advocate (within broad limits) for what they believe is good legislation, without sacrificing their IRS status.

The separation of church and state does not mean that the public and those in power are insulated from having to listen to and consider the perspectives of people of faith.

Let's put aside the smokescreen that the speech of religious actors is somehow an illegitimate or unwarranted "intrusion" into politics.


The writer is executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference.