CA-transgender-bathroomThis summer Houston Mayor Annise Parker championed a so-called Equal Rights Ordinance which, among other changes, would force businesses to allow transgender residents’ to use whatever restroom they want, regardless of their biological sex.

In response, a citizen initiative was launched to have the council either repeal the bill or place it on the ballot for voters to decide. The mayor and city attorney defied the law and rejected the certification, so the initiative filed a lawsuit. In return, the city’s attorneys subpoenaed a number of area pastors.

According to Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the city demanded to see what these pastors were preaching from the pulpit and wanted to examine their communications with their church members and others concerning the city council’s actions.

“City council members are supposed to be public servants, not ‘Big Brother’ overlords who will tolerate no dissent or challenge,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley. “In this case, they have embarked upon a witch-hunt, and we are asking the court to put a stop to it.”

“The city’s subpoena of sermons and other pastoral communications is both needless and unprecedented,” said ADF Litigation Counsel Christiana Holcomb. “The city council and its attorneys are engaging in an inquisition designed to stifle any critique of its actions. Political and social commentary is not a crime; it is protected by the First Amendment.”

Texas law makes it clear that the discovery process in a legal proceeding “may not be used as a fishing expedition.” Houston’s city attorneys are certainly aware of this fact, so why are they seeking the sermons and communications of pastors who aren’t even involved in the lawsuit?

The apparent answer, as ADF notes, is that the Houston city government “has embarked upon a witchhunt.” They are trying to send a message to area pastors that criticism of city policies from the pulpit can result in their being dragged into court. This is a despicable display of government overreach and an attempt to stifle both religious freedom and political speech. If this violation of citizens rights isn’t checked in Houston, other cities will get the message that irrelevant legal actions can be used to harass church leaders who dare to challenge our “public servants.”

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  • JGradGus

    One question — you say, ” . . . a citizen initiative was launched to have the council either repeal the bill or place it on the ballot for voters to decide. The mayor and city attorney defied the law and rejected the certification . . . ” How did they defy the law? Is it law that a citizen’s initiative requires a response from the council? Just what is the “certification” that is mentioned? Was the law defied because the “certification” was rejected or what? Some clarification please.

    • http://Culture11.com Joe Carter

      Yeah, the City Secretary certified the ERO Referendum Petition as valid and that it had the requisite number of registered voters’ signatures. Although the City Secretary is the one who determines the validity, the City Attorney took it upon himself to declare they were invalid. He said, “In this instance … this petition filed to repeal the HERO ordinance, there are simply too many documents with irregularities and problems to overlook. The petition is simply invalid, there is no other conclusion.”

      The City Charter, however, makes it clear that its the City Secretary who determines whether the petition is valid, not the City Attorney.

  • http://dfwdorks.podbean.com Jason Feagans

    Too bad all laws can’t go before the voters before they get passed. If I have to follow the laws, I want the chance to either vote against it or for it.

    • http://www.shockandblog.com/ Jay McHue

      Well, that’s unfortunately the downside of our representative republic system of government. We elect officials to represent groups of us and craft and pass laws instead of going through the process of having the citizens vote on every single law. It smooths things out and quickens the passing of laws, but unfortunately, those representatives can end up making stupid decisions and passing laws that the public doesn’t like. The only remedy now would be to vote out those representatives, get new ones that agree with you, and have them repeal said laws. That’s usually never an easy or quickly won battle, but it’s one worth fighting tooth and nail to the bitter end.

      • Jason Andrew Martin

        Or, we could just put all of these politicians on a giant barge and send them out to deep space.

      • AZRanger

        Jay, there are other options, when the electorial process has already been corrupted.

  • http://about.me/bezner Steve Bezner

    Hey, Joe. Which pastors have been subpoenaed for their sermons? Also, I thought the restroom provision was removed from the legislation. Is that not the case?

  • OnceAMule

    Invariably, we get the kind of government we either ‘want’, or will settle for. If we don’t pay attention to who we vote for, we can rapidly lose our freedoms – whether it’s national or local.

  • Chuck Peterson

    If the city wants to see what the pastors are preaching they should go to church, like the rest of us. They are welcome.

    • slackey

      My thoughts exactly! It’s not like the pastors are hiding their sermons…and the sermons are probably posted on their church websites!

  • Adam S

    Just another example of the desire for control and uber-rights, not equal rights. Uh oh…I wonder if big brother is watching me now? *Gasp* : /

  • Bill Lescallette

    The Mayor, City Council, and City Attorney need to review the First Amendment as they appears to hold themselves above the law. This is an attempt to intimidate individual expression of opinions. Those who signed the petition that was illegally invalidated needs to start another recalling the Mayor & City Council.

  • JohnM

    If true none of this would surprise me, but I think Steve Bezner’s question should be answered before we discuss this much further.

  • Charles Nash

    In the 60s the hippies babbled on about how the right wingers would become the “brain police” and the “thought police”. What a fraud! It is the hard Lefist scum that has always been the threat. Seen enough yet?

  • Philmonomer

    Houston’s city attorneys are certainly aware of this fact, so why are
    they seeking the sermons and communications of pastors who aren’t even involved in the lawsuit?

    Lots of place are reporting that the pastors are the ones who sued. Does anyone know the truth?

  • Jeff Tilley

    I can see an epic gun battle breaking out over this one. God Bless Texas and God Bless each and every pastor, teacher, business owner and congregant that openly defies the leadership of this city. I hope to see Ferguson-style rioting in the streets. I hope to see ordinary men and women shaking their fists in the faces of their city leaders. I hope to see pitchforks and bon fires. The citizens of Houston should not stand for this. I hope they run them out of town on a rail, but first, let’s warm up the buckets of tar and grab the feather pillow cases.

  • AZRanger

    In AZ, that crap would NEVER fly! Here, the congragations would stand between their Pastors and the minions of tyranny!

  • Curlyt

    What’s the motive behind wanting the sermons? They have an agenda. What’s next? Arresting Pastors for hate crimes based on preaching biblical truth? Do you think this is far fetched? People like Anne Parker are the ones who are at work to deny every citizen of the united states of America their constitutional right to freedom of speech. The First Amendment prohibits the federal government from making a law “respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.
    SQUASH

  • schmenz

    City of Houston to Pastors: Show us your sermons.

    Pastors to City of Houston: Drop dead.

  • Craig

    “would force businesses to allow transgender residents’ to use whatever restroom they want, regardless of their biological sex.”

    “Biological sex” is rather vague but my interpretation is that if you were born female, had sexual reassignment surgery and identified as a male, you would still be forced/required to use the female restroom.

    It’s ironic that virtually everyone in the comments is outraged about perceived oppression yet they seem completely unperturbed about why such an ordinance was necessary in the first place…because when people they don’t care about are oppressed, they look the other way.

  • Gary

    Hard to maintain religious liberty when you’re a corporate church, beholding to the state for your tax exemption.

    Truth is, if these pastors are attempting to influence legislation through their sermons, they very well could be in violation of 501c3 regulations.

    The solution is to unincorporate.