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 reports. HERO 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.

Posted 10/16/14