Houston’s summer was marred by a battle over religious liberties and overreaching government.
Sparring over a city ordinance that would force businesses, among other things, to allow transgendered clientele the use of opposite sex restrooms or risk discrimination suits, Bayou City area clergy and the government aren’t exactly on the best of terms.
Rather than placing the measure on the ballot, City Council enacted the reform via city ordinance. Rallying together, clergy and concerned citizens submitted over more than twice as many required to repeal the ordinance. Then the validity of the signatures was called to question by the city attorney.
And that’s where this story picks up. The Houston City government made a bad situation worse when it subpoenaed five local area pastors.
The subpoena requests any and all communication, electronic and otherwise that remotely mentions the above mentioned city ordinance battle. But it doesn’t stop there:
All speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession.
Churches qualify for 501(c)(3) tax exempt status and can lose that status by engaging in electioneering or elicit candidate endorsement, just the same as any other 501(c)(3) organization; but none of the subpoenaed material falls within that category.
Houston Mayor Annise Parker is openly gay and was the driving force behind the HERO city ordinance. No big deal, right?
But it’s hard to watch this situation unfold and not wonder if the subpoena is motivated by vindictiveness.
Especially when she’s tweeting things like this:
Thanks to national pressure, Mayor Parker is backing off. WOAI reports:
Houston Mayor Annise Parker is doing damage control after national media picked up on her subpoenas targeting local clergy who protested her equal rights ordinance.
The mayor says the subpoenas were too broad, and should not have included actual sermons.
“It’s not about what did you preach on last Sunday,” Parker told reporters Wednesday. “It should have been clarified, it will be clarified.”
The Alliance Defending Freedom filed a motion to stop the subpoenas earlier this week.
City Attorney David Feldman says he didn’t review the subpoenas before they were issued.
“When I looked at it I felt it was overly broad, I would not have worded it that way myself,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that it has been construed as some effort to infringe upon religious liberty.”
The city promises to narrow the language of the subpoenas.
Senator Ted Cruz is holding a rally this morning with the pastors under fire. Annise Parker succeeded in making national headlines, although probably not in the way she hoped.
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