After a widely opposed ‘non-discrimination ordinance’, Houston’s first openly homosexual mayor Annise Parker has just issued subpoenas to over 400 pastors, requiring them to turn in all sermons or internal communications that might relate to homosexuality, gender identity, or Annise Parker herself. Any pastor who fails to submit their sermons could face hefty fines or jail time.
“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.” remarked ADF attorney Christina Holcomb.
ADF, a nationally-known law firm specializing in freedom of speech cases, is now representing several Houston area pastors who have filed a motion to stop the subpoenas, saying they are “overbroad, unduly burdensome, harassing, and vexatious.”
“Political and social commentary is not a crime, it is protected by the First Amendment.” commented Holcomb.
The recent sermon subpoenas were issued using Houston’s new non-discrimination ordinance. The law, among other things, would encourage men to use the ladies room and vice versa. The city of Houston just approved the law this past June.
Opponents of the ordinance launched a widespread petition that quickly acquired over 50,000 signatures – far more than the 17,269 needed to put a referendum on the ballot.
However, the city threw out the petition in August.
Once the petition was thrown out, opponents filed a lawsuit against the ordinance. The city’s attorneys then responded by issuing the subpoenas against some 400 Houston-area churches that opposed the ordinance. The churches represent a number of faith groups – from Southern Baptist to non-denominational.
One of the most prominent mega-church pastors who was issued a subpoena was Steve Riggle, senior pastor of Grace Community Church. He was ordered to produce all speeches and sermons related to Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, as well as gender identity. He was also ordered to hand over “all communications with members of your congregation”.
Do you think the pastors should be forced to turn in their sermons?
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