The city of Houston is demanding pastors hand over any sermon notes dealing with gender identity, homosexuality or the city’s first openly lesbian mayor, Annise Parker. The city has issued subpoenas to a group of local ministers; any who fail to comply could be held in contempt of court. Reportedly, when the mayor’s office was contacted for an explanation Janice Evans, the director of communications, declined by stating, “We do not comment on litigation.”
The city is illegitimately ordering these pastors to turn over their constitutionally protected sermons, according to Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) attorneys, so the city can see if the ministers have ever criticized or opposed the city. Attorney Christina Holcomb said:
The city’s subpoena of sermons and other pastoral communications is both needless and unprecedented. The city council and its attorneys are engaging in an inquisition designed to stifle any critique of its actions.
ADF is a nationally known law firm that specializes in religious liberty cases; an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith. The firm filed a motion in Harris County court on behalf of five Houston pastors, to stop the legal action against them. ADF argues these demands are vexatious, harassing, over-broad and unduly burdensome. Holcomb stated:
Political and social commentary is not a crime. It is protected by the First Amendment.
These efforts are just the latest twist in an ongoing saga over the new non-discrimination ordinance in Houston. The law was approved in June by the city council and would allow men and women to use the other sex’s restroom. There were 17,269 petition signatures needed to put a referendum on the ballot and reportedly opponents of the ordinance generated more than 50,000 signatures. The city alleged they found irregularities in the petition and threw it out in August.
Erik Stanley, ADF attorney, believes the mayor wants to shame the pastors publicly and hold up their sermon notes for public scrutiny. He suspects the city is looking for evidence to “out” these ministers as anti-gay bigots. He added:
This is designed to intimidate pastors. City council members are supposed to be public servants, not ‘Big Brother’ overlords who will tolerate no dissent or challenge.
The American Family Association (AFA) is encouraging the public to take action against Mayor Annise Parker. They believe the mayor is using intimidation, bully tactics and threats in hopes of silencing anyone who refuses to embrace her lifestyle. They are asking the people to take a stand along with these ministers and urge the mayor to withdraw her legal demands. Pastors should have the liberty to speak their truth and oppose her brand of political activism based on her personal agenda.
Head of the Family Research Council, Tony Perkins, is also encouraging ministers around the nation to support these Houston pastors. He called the actions by Mayor Parker “obscene” and said they “should not be tolerated.” He added:
The state is breaching the wall of separation between church and state. Pastors need to step forward and challenge this across the country. I would like to see literally thousands of pastors after they read this story begin to challenge government authorities and dare them to come into their churches and demand their sermons.
Perkins is the author of the book, God Less America. In the book he predicted the government would try to silence American pastors one day and deconstruct religious liberty. Sadly, he did not expect it to happen so soon. Now that the time has arrived pastors and faith-filled people cannot sit idly by. It is time to take a stand and rise up and reject the strong-arm attack on religious freedom.
By: Cherese Jackson (Virginia)