Houston Mayor Annise Parker Subpoenas Sermons-Truth!
Houston Mayor Annise Parker Subpoenas Sermons-Truth!
Summary of eRumor:Houston Mayor Annise Parker allegedly handed down subpoenas for transcripts of sermons that pastors gave at local churches in response to opposition to an anti-discrimination ordinance that city officials signed into law in May 2014.
The Truth:Five pastors from Houston were subpoenaed to turn over written documents, communications and sermons in response to a lawsuit filed by opponents of an anti-discrimination ordinance.
The subpoenas called for transcripts of "all speeches, presentations or sermons" that touched on specific topics like "the mayor" and "gender identity." They came to light when lawyers for the Alliance Defending Freedom organization filed a motion to quash the subpoenas on the pastors’ behalves in October 2014.
Houston Mayor Annise Parker, the city's first openly gay mayor, signed the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) into law in May 2014. HERO bans discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, religion, disability, pregnancy and genetic information, the Houston Chronicle reports The measure sparked controversy, and its opponents vowed to collect the roughly 17,000 signatures required to trigger a referendum vote for its repeal in November 2014.
By August 2014, opponents of HERO, led by the Houston Area Pastor Council, delivered more than 50,000 signatures to city offices. But Parker and City Attorney David Feldmen said only about half of the 5,000 pages of signatures were valid. That left the final signature tally at 15,249, short of the threshold to spark a referendum, the Houston Chronicle reportsHERO opponents quickly announced plans to fight Parker’s decision in court. By mid-August 2014, HERO opponents had filed a lawsuit to force a referendum vote on HERO. In the meantime, the anti-discrimination ordinance was placed on hold.
The subpoenas were handed down in response to the lawsuit filed by HERO opponents. Feldmen said during a press conference on October 15, 2014, that “there’s no question the wording was overly broad,” but the purpose was to learn what instructions were given to collect signatures for the petition. Feldman said the city would clarify what information it was looking for, and he said it was “unfortunate” that it had been construed as an effort to infringe upon religious beliefs.
A real example of the eRumor as it has appeared on the Internet:
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?
TO MY EMAIL FRIENDS
The Apostle Paul told Pastor Timothy: “WATCH THOU IN ALL THINGS” (2 Timothy 4:5). As a Pastor, I believe I must also heed Paul’s command to Pastor Timothy to “WATCH IN ALL THINGS,” including both CHURCH and STATE. Because of this, I send you emails about articles and videos not found in many other sources because I am concerned about what’s happening in our country. If our U.S. government continues to depart from the strict provisions of our U. S. Constitution, we will no longer have freedom of speech and true religious liberty as guaranteed in the 1st Constitutional Amendment. If this is continued, Pastors such as I will be forbidden: (1) to preach and teach the Bible as it is written, and (2) to tell clearly the Biblical gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ without any hindrances from our U.S. government. Yours For Truth, Pastor D. A. Waite, Th.D., Ph.D.