A move by Houston officials to bolster their defense of a “non-discrimination” ordinance by issuing subpoenas demanding pastors turn over sermons dealing with homosexuality has stirred such an outrage across America that 1,000 people per hour were signing a petition in opposition.
The Web petition set up by the Family Research Council had collected 25,000 names in 24 hours.
The latest total was nearly 38,000 names.
The signers are standing “unapologetically” with the Houston pastors whose sermons were subpoenaed, and their churches are calling on the city of Houston “to retract their demands and issue a clear statement in support of the free speech of all people.”
FRC noted Houston Mayor Annise Parker’s office has filed a subpoena demanding that five pastors who oppose the ordinance turn over sermons, emails, text messages and even communications with members of their congregations.
The petition says Parker “has breached the wall of separation between the state and the church.”
“This attack on religious freedom and the freedom of speech should be universally repudiated by all Americans who value our constitutional freedoms,” the petition says.
“Thomas Jefferson once wrote that ‘religion is a matter which lies solely between man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions.’ The pulpit is to be governed only by the Word of God, and the chilling effect of government scrutiny of our pastors is unconstitutional, and unconscionable. Mayor Parker’s use of her bully pulpit to silence pulpit freedom must be stopped in its tracks.”
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said the mayor “made it quite clear throughout the entire ‘bathroom bill’ debate that she’ll use her bully pulpit to bully pulpits across Houston.”
He said that despite reports, the mayor’s office has not withdrawn the subpoenas.
“The city may eventually backpedal on a narrow portion of the subpoena dealing with sermons, but are still demanding pastors’ emails and other private communications,” he said.
Perkins said pastors “not only have the right to speak to the moral issues of the day – but an obligation to do so.”
“The pulpit is to be governed only by the Word of God,” he said.
Officials on Friday said the city had refiled the subpoenas leaving out the demand for “sermons,” but ADF officials said the move accomplished nothing.
“The city of Houston still doesn’t get it. It thinks that by changing nothing in its subpoenas other than to remove the word ‘sermons’ that it has solved the problem. That solves nothing. Even though the pastors are not parties in this lawsuit, the subpoenas still demand from them 17 different categories of information – information that encompasses speeches made by the pastors and private communications with their church members. As we have stated many times, the problem is the subpoenas themselves; they must be rescinded entirely. The city must respect the First Amendment and abandon its illegitimate mission to invade the private communications of pastors for the purpose of strong-arming them into silence in a lawsuit that concerns nothing more than the authenticity of citizen petitions,” said ADF’s Erik Stanley.
An analysis from the Media Research Center found broadcast networks ABC, CBS and NBC had “completely censored” news of Parker’s attempt to obtain the sermons.
MRC President Brent Bozell commented that when the government “mandates what a pastor can or cannot say, and criminalizes preaching the Bible, we’re no different than Red China.”
“How in the name of God is that not national news?” he asked.
Bozell said freedom of religion, expressed at the pulpit, is “a sacred right in this country.”
“If you lose that, then religion itself is outlawed unless expressly approved by the state. This is unheard of in America. It is unconscionable that the ‘news’ media are suppressing this from the public,” he said.
MRC Vice President for Culture Dan Gainor said there was a time when journalists considered faith sacred.
“Now the LGBT community gets that treatment and Christians are ignored or abused by the press,” he said. “A radical, left-wing mayor aims the full force of a major city on five pastors and demands 16 different types of information from them and … nothing. The networks spent more than four minutes on a movie about male strippers and a ‘Hunks and Hounds’ calendar instead.”
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, came out vehemently in favor of the pastors earlier in the week, calling the mayor’s move unworthy of a Texan and unAmerican.
At a rally for pastors, he said: “As we’ve seen it across the country, our hearts are particularly broken that we are seeing it here in Houston, Texas. This week, the government of Houston, Texas, sent a subpoena to silence prayers. The government of Houston, Texas, demanded of the pastors, hand over your sermons to the government. The city of Houston has no power – no legal authority – to silence the church. Caesar has no jurisdiction over the pulpit, and when you subpoena one pastor, you subpoena every pastor.”
He pointed out that the nation recognized at its founding that citizens’ rights “do not come from government, but they come from the Almighty God.”
Read “Speechless: Silencing the Christians,” the book by Don Wildmon that introduces the “Christian bashers, a coalition of liberal secularists, homosexual activists and Fortune 500 companies waging war on Christianity. Why? Because they can get what they want only by driving Christians out of public life.
Cruz said if mayor and the city attorney and the city government want to hear sermons, let me invite you, come join us to hear the sermons Sunday morning. … We will welcome you with warm embrace, we will break bread and wine and fellowship and worship together.”
Court asked to quash
WND reported first on the development Monday, when the Alliance Defending Freedom asked a court to quash Parker’s subpoenas for sermons.
The lawsuit was filed by voters after a petition drive to put the ordinance on the election ballot obtained 50,000 signatures, more than three times the required number, and was certified by the city secretary. The mayor and city attorney, however, claimed there were not enough valid signatures and threw out the petition.
Written by BOB UNRUH
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