The Texas Attorney General, Greg Abbott, has spoken out in a letter to David Feldman, the Houston City Attorney, where he openly states that they are bullying pastors in Houston, as he tells Feldman that it needs to stop. Abbott says that they are picking on “people of faith” which is against freedom of religion. He told Feldman that he needed to immediately withdraw the subpoenas because it was an assault on religious liberty and the First Amendment.
The whole battle started when Texas passed what is known as the “Bathroom Bill,” or the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), in which it was put into place that, basically, any gender can go to any bathroom, whether it is marked for men or women. Accusations were made that the reason for the bill was because of the Mayor’s supposed gender neutrality battle, in a fight for transgender rights. According to sources Mayor Annise Parker is openly gay and is even married in the state of California to a woman by the name of Kathy Hubbard.
In response to the passing of this bill many pastors supposedly preached to their churches on the issue, a move which caused five Houston pastors to be subpoenaed for “any sermons dealing with homosexuality and gender identity.” Many of the pastors spoke out against the bill and the city. However, according to sources it was not just the pastors who did not agree with the bill that was passed.
Residents in the city of Houston spent the month of July, one month after the bill was passed, collecting signatures to overturn the bill. The city needed only 17,269 signatures on a petition but received over 50,000. The ADF (Alliance Defending Freedom), which fights for religious rights, certified the petition but it was then rejected by city officials. Residents then filed a lawsuit, known as Woodfill v Parker, in order to take further action against the bill. It is said that this is why the city attorney then demanded to see what the pastors were preaching about, requiring that they, by law, turn in all of their sermons that deal with any issues.
This is a move that has gained major attention, as residents and political activists, alike, are arguing that having the pastors turn in their sermons is a violation of The Constitution and has nothing to do with religion but has everything to do with the city protecting their decision for the bill and reducing the amount of backlash. These accusations come from the wording of the subpoenas presented, in that they asked pastors to turn in sermons that had anything to do with HERO, homosexuality, transgender, the Mayor, the “bathroom bill” and more. This wording obviously led residents and activists to believe that the battle was against the pastors preachings specifically, going against freedom of speech and religion.
Now that the media has been covering this issue the Mayor and City Attorney, David Feldman, are said to be backing down. Not only has Attorney General Greg Abbott taken a stand against the matter with his letter to Feldman, this issue has also caught the attention of Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz, who stated that the government had no right to request such things from pastors.
Mayor Parker has recently made statements that she agrees with “those who are concerned.” The pastors are also currently involved in legal efforts that they hope will overturn the subpoenas and the passed “bathroom bill” and return the city of Houston back to normality.
By Crystal Boulware